On the limestone hills of counties Clare and Galway, this beautiful slender perennial produces an erect spike of dark, slightly downward-looking red flowers. During July and August, it can be found flowering in grykes and clefts in the stony pavement. Each little flower (8-12mm across) has a lip which is smaller than its upper petals and also has a vanilla scent which attracts small pollinating insects. The leaves are broad, oval and tinged red-purple with softly hairy stems and they are arranged in two rows. This is a short plant only reaching about 30cm high. It is a native wildflower which belongs to the family Orchidaceae.
I first identified this flower in 1990 in the Burren, Co Clare and I photographed it on that occasion.
If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre
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 Gill Books - Nature - Ireland's Wild Orchids