Snow-white and sweetly fragrant, this wildflower, which is one of the Burren's greatest treasures, is a member of the Spotted-Orchid clan. Lower-growing than its cousins, the whiter-than-white flowers are borne in a cone-shaped spike, this subspecies of Dactylorhiza fuchsii rarely growing taller than 25cm. Blooming in July and August, each flower has the familiar hood comprised of sepals and petals, under which is a large three-lobed lip – a landing platform for the pollinating insects. The leaves are unspotted, with small leaves sheathing the stem and larger basal leaves. This plant grows on roadsides, on laneways and on short grassland close to the Burren's limestone pavement. It is a perennial, native plant which belongs to the family Orchidaceae.
I first identified this flower growing on Abbey Hill, Co Clare in 2006 and photographed it at Ballyryan, Co Clare in 2009.
If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre
This is a subspecies for which Ireland holds or possibly holds more than 25% of the European population (Ireland Red List No. 10 Vascular Plants).
This wildflower subspecies was named after amateur botanist, Patrick B O'Kelly of Ballyvaughan, who ran a nursery business at the end of the nineteenth century selling Burren plants.
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