A RARE orchid known as the “crown jewel” of sand dunes has been discovered at a site in South West Wales for the first time in almost 20 years.

A specimen of the fen orchid, or Liparis loeselii, was found at Laugharne-Pendine Burrows in Carmarthenshire – a military testing range – by 11-year-old botanist Tristan Moss.

Tristan was taking part in the annual Carmarthenshire recording week run by the Botanical Society of Great Britain and Ireland (BSBI) earlier this month.

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It is the first time the fen orchid has been found on the site since 2003.

Laugharne-Pendine Burrows is part of the Sands of Life project – a £4 million scheme to restore more than 2,400 hectares of sand dunes across 10 sites in Wales.

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The fen orchid found at Laugharne-Pendine Burrows in Carmarthenshire. Picture: Natural Resources Wales

The project is led by Natural Resources Wales, and involves the site’s managers, defence technology company QinetiQ, and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation which is part of the Ministry of Defence.

At Laugharne-Pendine Burrows, the scheme has involved clearing rapid-growing scrub and vegetation that can crowd out rare wildflowers.

As well as the orchid, several other species were recorded including fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia densiflora), dotted Sedge (Carex punctata) and adder’s-tongue fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum).

Laura Bowen, Sands of Life project and monitoring officer, said: “It’s a genuine success story and a great example of the long-term commitment needed to support nature recovery at this and other important wildlife sites.”

She added: “We are so pleased with the results from the scrub clearance programme that has been completed at Pendine.

“Scrub and rank vegetation will outcompete specialised, low-growing dune plants, but thanks to this completed work a range of plant species such as the fen orchid can thrive.”

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