While this wildflower is unlikely to win any prizes for being a thing of beauty, it certainly could be called quite a curiosity. It is a self-pollinating orchid with a tightly-packed spike (2–6 cm long) of ten to thirty pale, creamy flowers – sometimes with a pinkish cast. Each of these seem to be almost closed over with only the lower, forked lip protruding from the hood formed by the sepals and upper petals. The erect stem, which reaches 20 cm, arises from two or three basal, lanceolate and, occasionally, spotted leaves. Smaller leaves hug the stem. Flowering from April to June, this plant is confined to the western half of Ireland where it can be found growing on limestone pavements, dunes and short calcareous grassland. It is a native plant belonging to the Orchidaceae family.
My first record of this plant was at Ballyryan, Co Clare in 2010 where I also photographed it.
If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre
This species is classed as NEAR THREATENED in the Red Data List of Vascular Plants 2016.
First recorded in Ireland in the late-nineteenth century, this orchid is more commonly found around the Mediterranean.
To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'.
Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html