OrchidIreland News 2009

President Mary McAleese being presented by Dr Tom Curtis with a copy of 'The Orchids of Ireland' at the opening of the BirdwatchIreland East Coast Nature Reserve on 11 June 2009. (Photo: Dick Coombes). President Mary McAleese being presented by Dr Tom Curtis with a copy of 'The Orchids of Ireland' at the opening of the BirdwatchIreland East Coast Nature Reserve on 11 June 2009. (Photo: Dick Coombes). President Mary McAleese being presented by Dr Tom Curtis with a copy of 'The Orchids of Ireland' at the opening of the BirdwatchIreland East Coast Nature Reserve on 11 June 2009. (Photo: Dick Coombes).
President Mary McAleese being presented by Dr Tom Curtis with a copy of 'The Orchids of Ireland' at the opening of the BirdwatchIreland East Coast Nature Reserve on 11 June 2009. (Photo: Dick Coombes). Click on the images to enlarge.

6 August 2009

Green-flowered helleborine Epipactis phyllanthes has been rediscovered in County Wicklow after an absence of 56 years. It had been assumed that the species had disappeared from a site at Brittas Bay, County Wicklow, due to heavy recreational pressure, but it has been found this year in two areas of dune slack in this popular holiday destination.

Bog orchid Hammarbya paludosa has been rediscovered in County Donegal after an absence of 20 years. It was refound at Glengesh Hill, near Ardara, by Ralph Sheppard.

All four workshops in Dublin, Castle Ward, Mullaghmore and Waterford were oversubscribed and to accommodate all those interested, more will be organised for 2010.

Orchids to look for in August-September:
All images can be clicked to enlarge.

Spiranthes romanzoffiana. Photo: Robert Thompson Map of Spiranthes romanzoffiana

Irish lady’s-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana flowers during a very narrow window in the last week of July and the first two weeks of August. It is a species of lake shores and wetlands and is currently found in some quantities at sites in Galway, Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon. Its flowers are arranged in three spiral rows and have a scent reminiscent of Hawthorn.

Spiranthes spiralis. Photo: Robert Thompson Map of Spiranthes spiralis.

The related species, Autumn lady’s-tresses also flowers around this time, but it grows in calcareous sites such as eskers, sand dunes and coastal cliff tops. It is found mostly in the south of the island, being completely unknown from Northern Ireland. Unlike the former, its flowers occur in a single, twisted row on short, squat stems.

Hammarbya paludosa. Photo: Robert Thompson Map of Hammarbya paludosa

August–September is also the optimal time to look for the diminutive Bog orchid Hammarbya paludosa. The species is found in acid marshes and bogs, especially in mountains where it has a preference for Sphagnum moss hummocks and where there is water movement. Its detection is confounded by its small size, coupled with its greenish-yellow colour blending into the background of the colour of the moss hummocks that it grows within.

Map of Listera ovata Listera cordata. Photo: Robert Thompson Map of Listera cordata

This time of year is also optimal for locating the very small and squat variety var. platyglossa of the Common twayblade. This grows in the open in dunes in the north-west, especially Donegal and there are good populations of it occurring at Sheskinmore, north-west of Ardara. The related Lesser twayblade Listera cordata is not quite as elusive a plant as the Bog orchid, but it is often necessary to look for it under Heather hummocks on mountains, its usual habitat. Its two leaves are arranged opposite each other near the middle of its small and delicate stem and its reddish-green labellum is divided into two diverging lobes, making it unmistakable.

Epipactis helleborine. Photo: Robert Thompson Map of Epipactis helleborine

Broad-leaved helleborine Epipactis helleborine continues to flower into September and October and it is usually a plant of woods and occasionally open habitats. It can be recognised by its leaves arranged in a spiral, its erect flowers and its usually pink to purple labellum. It is sometimes very robust and some plants seen recently at the Raven, County Wexford, were up to a metre in height and carried a spike of over 100 flowers.