Reading Borough Council is now acting to protect a rare orchid growing on a verge in Reading, after previously saying it was ‘not geared up’ to do so.

The rare lizard orchid Himantoglossum hircinum was found by Reading University graduate and plant expert Dr Stephanie Bird while on her way to the shops over the weekend.

Rupert Wilson, principal data manager at the Royal Horticultural Society, shared pictures of the plant and criticised the council for initially saying it wasn’t ‘geared up’ to protect the species.

The council has has now located the plant and ‘is taking appropriate measures to protect it’.

The authority stirred controversy after initially saying the plant might have already been cut down by one of its mowers.

But Mr Wilson said the orchid is protected under The Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it an offence to dig it up or destroy it and moving it would require a licence.

A council spokesman added: “We already have approximately 36 hectares of conservation grass in and around parks in Reading and the council has previously trialled pollinator strips in parts of the borough, working with the University of Reading.

“Moving forward, we are continuing to explore how protection of the biodiversity of our verges and open areas are managed, taking cues from best practice in other parts of the country in terms of management of wildflower meadow and increasing the local pollinator habitat,  including reviewing our mowing regime where appropriate.”