Information on Bog Orchid

Common Name: Bog Orchid
Scientific Name: Hammarbya paludosa
Irish Name: Magairlín na móna
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Bog Orchid is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


This is one of our rarest wildflowers. It is a really tiny plant, only attaining 12 cm at best, which grows in extremely boggy places. Spikes of minute pale green flowers rise from Sphagnum moss-covered ground where rivulets and trickles ease their way down hillsides. Each flower has a pointed lip, two wings and two short 'arms'. The pale green, ovate basal leaves have miniscule green bulbs along their uppermost side. These bulbils provide the blueprint for propagation of the next generation. Bog Orchid is also pollinated by tiny gnats and midges. This plant is in flower from July to September but is so difficult to spot, even then, that perhaps it is under-recorded. Also the habitat in which it is found makes it unlikely to be noticed as all the pale yellow-green vegetation in the area tends to blend. It is a native plant and it belongs to the Orchidaceae family. 

I would never have found this plant had it not been for the guidance of Jackie O’Connell. It was recorded and photographed by me in August 2011 in the Dublin mountains near Glenasmole. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Orchid, Bog
Orchid, Bog

In his Flora of the County Dublin (1904) Nathaniel Colgan recorded this species being ‘Abundant in one spot by the Slade Brook, Glenasmole (probably in the same locality as the preceding), as many as 33 plants found growing in a space of 3 yards square, 1901. By ‘the preceding’, Colgan referred to Flora Hibernica of 1893. This area would seem to be very close to where I recorded the Bog Orchid which Jackie O’Connell so kindly showed to me and to botanist, Paul Green in August 2011.

This species is protected under the Flora (Protection) Order, 2015 and is classed as NEAR THREATENED in the Red Data List of Vascular Plants 2016. 

This plant was previously known as Malaxis paludosa. 

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