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9th July 2019: Lough Cullin, County Mayo…
Welcome to the Spiranthes Log 2019, which will document the occurrence of Spiranthes romanzoffiana around the West of Ireland this year. Flowering is occurring now and seed and vegetative reproduction will occur through July to October, depending on weather and depth of water where the plants (or their overwintering lateral buds stage) occur. The field work will involve location of all specimens in the area, keeping a tally of numbers, marking of specimen by GPS and any other interesting or important information. The plants will be monitored over their flowering season, and any damage due to livestock or flooding, noted. By late August the plants may (as in 2018)  actually produce seed! Around this time lateral buds should be developing on many or all plants, and will form the basis of a new plant for the next growing season. It is an exciting time, waiting for these rare and beautiful plants to appear and flourish at Lough Cullin…
LEFT: First specimen seen at Lough Cullin this year, on 9th July. A good, strong plant, it is expected that the flowers will be fully open within a week or so. The conditions are good, weather is warm and water levels are low.Hopefully there will be many more Spiranthes emerging in the next week, when another visit will be made. One more Spiranthes was found on this day (9th July) but the flower bud was less developed than the specimen pictured. The leaves, however, were strong and sturdy and the plant was about 6cm in height. Conditions appear ideal for another excellent year for Spiranthes…
RIGHT A late flowering early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza pulchella) seen on the shores of Lough Cullin. This was the only specimen to have a full flowerhead; most had withered, or had only a few complete flowers. It’s a common species, found usually from early May to end of June. Lough Cullin is a good location for these Marsh orchids; however, this site is usually only visited when the Spiranthes are due to appear! Other orchid species recorded here include the Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris), Common Spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), Heath spotted (Dactylorhiza maculata) and Twayblade (Neottia ovata). Lough Cullin (and adjacent Lough Conn) are very special locations for orchids, and are a good stronghold for Spiranthes romanzoffiana, Irish Lady’s Tresses.

Spiranthes romanzoffiana

Irish Lady’s Tresses

2019 LOG

Spiranthes in bloom… Large increase in specimens since last week! 

Lough Cullin

On our second visit to Lough Cullin, there were 49 Spiranthes seen and recorded and the situation looks good for many more to come as it is still early in the season. Since the first visit, 9 days ago, there has been some welcome rain, and the weather has been generally quite warm (21 degrees on the 18th). The favourite place for Spiranthes appears to be the shallow bay and wide beach beyond the three car parks at the north east corner of Lough Cullin. This year, so far, about 30 have been counted and recorded in this area which is bounded by a field with cattle grazing to the west, and an area of high Phragmites reeds to the east of the beach. One specimen was found at each of two car parks, and the third car park had a total of 19, a good number since this is an extremely popular area with visitors and dogs! Growing in amongst the grass and on grassy islands in the sand, they were in good condition. This area, in 2018, had  some of the largest, most fertile Spiranthes plants seen, with seeds bursting out of their capsules. If the weather continues good and no floods occur, perhaps it will be another good year for seed production?
The three images here , in varying stages of flowering, are typical of the way this species emerges suddenly in good weather conditions. The middle specimen, in particular has a large number of buds. Most of the plants seen this week had good numbers of flowers.
(ABOVE) The open sandy area has many small islands of grass, rushes, Alder and Bog Myrtle where the Spiranthes are found. These islands provide some protection against flooding, often occurring in late Summer, and also provide protection from drying out or damage from disturbance by animals.
LEFT This location can be classified as having two varying Habitats — the shoreline around the upper reaches of Winter rain, and the other area further into the lake characterised by flat sand with many small islands rapidly being colonised by Bog Myrtle and Alders. BELOW
BELOW A stunning pair of well-developed Spiranthes in the grassy area among the Alder bushes

Growing conditions at L. Cullin

The growing conditions vary throughout the site; some areas being very reedy with conditions unsuitable for Spiranthes; other areas — such as the shorelines — have short vegetation and many associated flowers such as Bog Pimpernel, Creeping Jenny, Yellow-eyed Grass, Eyebright, Sneezewort, Yellow Loosestrife, Gypsywort and Great Sundew (Drosera anglica). Larger plants include Willowherb, Alder, Bog Myrtle, and Phragmites reeds. On the flat sandy parts of the site vegetation is sparse, just patches of Common Rush and small sedges mainly. Spiranthes are often associated with the grassy islands scattered throughout this beach. RIGHT In this image some moisture has appeared in low-lying sandy areas allowing a single orchid to flower. None were seen in the dry sandy areas surrounding this. This is typical of the opportunistic nature of this species and explains large variation in numbers from year to year. (esp. at Lough Allen) Spiranthes romanzoffiana is not always that easy to find, especially in areas of dense medium height vegetation or high reeds. But, they do occasionally occur in these locations, as the picture on the far RIGHT shows.

Other species associated with Spiranthes romanzoffiana at L. Cullin…

The three Images (ABOVE) show some other associated species. Bog Pimpernel, Anagallis tenella  (LEFT), Great Pond Snail shell ( MIDDLE), and a Blue Damselfly on the seeds of Yellow Eyed Grass, Sisyrhynchium califoricum. RIGHT Large clumps Great Sundew (Drosera anglica) were found on the shoreline at the back of the main bay that forms the northern shore of the site adjacent to the road. These plants were thriving, taller than normal, and with abundant elongated traps testifying (?) to a good source of insects for these insecivorous plants to feed on. Possibly indicating nitrogen deficiency in the site but, of course, S. romanzoffiana is unusual in orchids in not requiring a rich or alkaline substrate. Growing around and in between the Drosera many Yellow-eyed Grass plants are seen with their very pale green sharply pointed leaves. LEFT An interesting image of a Dragonfly having emerged from its nymph body (which is still attached to the vegetation). The dragonfly’s wings are shiny and crumpled and will need time to expand. It is very vulnerable to predation at this stage but is resting among vegetation while its wings spread and strengthen. But, dragonfly larvae live in water, and climb up onto vegetation when they are ready to hatch? Oddly, this image was taken quite a distance from water! There was no water at the base of the rushes and the lake water was 5m. away. Is the larva tolerant of air or drought?

Promising outlook for Summer 2019

Numbers of Spiranthes in the area are exploding exponentially — but it is still early in the season. Sites along the Pontoon shore of L. Cullin and the Massbrook shore of south L. Conn were also surveyed today but no orchids discovered yet. The Massbrook shore is a reliable site. In earlier studies around Lough Allen (MORE) it was often the middle or the third week of July before the plants were seen. New plants, however, may appear right up to the first week of August, if the weather stays good…
Dry area of sand
Darker damp areas of sand
Dry area of sand
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ENLARGE (marked Images)
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Adaptable Spiranthes New colonisation zone found

A wet place!

Spiranthes romanzoffiana  is the Daubenton’s Bat of Orchids — they like wet places!  So why do we describe this site as a ‘wet place’? We discovered this place five years ago. It is a long awkward walk from the nearest road so it is secluded from day trippers and rubbish. The day we discovered this ‘secret lagoon’, after a long day, it was a dry place full of Irish Lady’s Tresses. However, it was evident from the sand patches and water cut banks that it was an area that was heavily flooded in Winter conditions and we postulated then (based on settlement patterns) that Spiranthes seeds must have been carried by water through the narrow entrance to the expansive mud/sand flats inside. There is a pattern of erosion and deposition on all lakes whereby sand, shale, plant material, foam and seeds are piled up at specific locations in each lake — often the northern shore in the case of Ireland. The northern shore of L. Conn has not been overcome but has been breached by narrow channels allowing ingress of water to the lower fields behind. These lagoons come and go over the years and attract specific flora as they flood, dry out, and mature. This site has much higher growth now than when first investigated, but there is still plenty of sandy ground with little plant cover where floating orchid seeds can settle and grow.

A Nursery for Spiranthes romanzoffiana.

Plants seen here today seemed a little less developed than the previous day’s survey (L. Cullin). Certainly there were many much smaller specimens visible and, doubtless, others just emerging which we failed to see. It is a fascinating study in plant succession and ecology. If this places fully dries out it will probably be no longer attractive to Spiranthes.  But there will be another shore where winter storms will break through whatever coastal barriers there are and flood low fields behind which may remain flooded, or too wet to farm, and will generate another wild flower haven. On this trip, for the first time, we came across another good population of S. romanzoffiana in a field some distance away from the lagoon. Interestingly this field is grazed but certain circular areas were populated by very low Alder trees and short grass probably representing either poor water supply or Nitrogen deficiency. (We suspect that Spiranthes common association with Alder has something to do with that trees facility to release Nitrogen?) The ‘new Field’ may have been seeded by seeds from the lagoon or elsewhere, or orchid roots may have survived underground waiting for ideal conditions to trigger a flowering episode. But, this field also floods though not as readily as the lagoon. Anyway, more anon. It is just great to see an old colony thriving and an empty field becoming a new focus for this very adaptable species.

Numbers and Development.

Further north, with  more overgrowth and less stable conditions, this site in north east L. Conn is normally later than the L. Cullin site, so we were anxious to make a preliminary survey to see if plants had emerged and then to assess the population. Well, they have emerged and in good numbers but the numbers have not peaked yet. We assess max-flowering by the percentage of young flowers and unopened buds among the sample viewed. As expected the plants seen here were smaller and at an earlier stage of development than the plants at L. Cullin.
LEFT Numbers present were 38 in the Lagoon Site and 13 in the new field Site (in GREEN)
Map prepared using ExpertGPS with acknowledgements to MapBox and OpenStreetMap. Other information from WildWest.ie
RIGHT Site location at north of L. Conn looking SW to Nephin More.
RIGHT Entrance to lagoon which, at present, is just above lake level. Normally in Summer this is a broad sandy beach.
RIGHT Looking from Lagoon out to Lake along the original breach of the shoreline. This is still the only entrance of water apart from Winter floods when the whole area is inundated.
JULY 23rd

The MAP:

The map LEFT is our satellite positioning data overlaid on aerial photos of the site. We have kept this map and access details limited as some of this land is farmland whilst the main occurrence of the orchids (indicated in Red) is on ‘public’ land. Please Contact Us if you want to visit the area or have any information of other Spiranthes sites. The number in Red is less than the normal Summer count but this is a late site and the vegetation is taller and wetter than usual. From the scattered distribution — only one place with two specimens together — and the maturity, size, and age of the plants, we would expect that number to rise to around 100 as it has done in previous years. We discuss how this site evolves (rapidly) and the new adjoining location in the next section. It is good to see the new cluster and the old lagoon specimens emerging on schedule. BELOW (from Left to Right) Small twin plants…  a delicate plant recently emerged… maturest specimen found…  even growing in bushes (Downy Birch)

Evolving niches and new Colonies:

All the photos above are from The Lagoon… a long established colony. However the pattern of winter storms breaking through the north shore defences of L. Conn is a regular ongoing process. If you look at an aerial photograph of the area the typical pattern of breach, lagoon, and recolonisation of the flooded land can be readily seen. To the west of The Lagoon there is a clear water pond of constant height (no longer connected to the lake) and to the east there is a dried up lagoon which is now too dry for the orchids to survive there. The present hub for S. romanzoffiana is protected from grazing and this has effectively allowed the orchid to thrive here undisturbed with only occasional wild predators. The ownership of this site is not clear but, considering this orchid’s rarity in European terms, it could well be an area worth protecting solely for this unique species? The natural evolution of this coastline does not seem to be a problem. This species is adaptable and can sustain and replicate itself in several ways… through its large swollen stem underground, through lateral buds that arise from the plants as the flowers start to die (often two shoots, sometimes three) and from the copious seed that is produced in ideal dry Autumns… like 2018. Permanent change of land use and permanent grazing will eliminate the species altogether but if sufficient wild patches are left and grazing animals excluded then S. romanzoffiana  will find these places and colonise them.
These THREE pictures show the process whereby a low- lying grassy shore is colonised. The 3 watery images at the top of this report show the entrance to The Lagoon at a moderately high Summer level. Any higher and the water would be flowing in through the main channel (shown left) that has been in-play since at least 2014. The north shore often consists of a sandy grass bank covered with a dense wall of Alders that anchor the ground and often succeed in preventing a breach. If the shoreline is breached the in-flow of water can be considerable as the land behind the Alder trees is flat and unprotected. There is a large wet area showing in front of the trees in the image on RIGHT. Water flows through the main channel and then spreads into many smaller channels serving all these pools. Of course, any material (seeds) in the flood-water will be carried along until the flow stops.
ABOVE Long established feeder channel bringing water from the lake for distribution throughout smaller channels and water pans. The specimen showing  has been in the same redoubt for many years in a secure patch of grassland left from the time of the original flood, we suspect.
ABOVE Present hunting ground for Spiranthes. One of the larger open pools and the channels are indicated by Arrows. The central pond is largely still mud and seems to be developing as a settlement spot for this species. Bear in mind that Botanists think that this species may take 5 years to form an association with mycorrhiza and develop a root large enough to support a plant and a flower.
RIGHT On the western side of the main channel this area of plant succession is taking place. In College you read about this ecological process and it seems slow. This succession has taken place in about 5 years! The large number of Alder, and some Downy Birch, are renowned colonists and will take over the site. Spiranthes will thrive under Alder (appreciating the nutrients coming from that tree) but NOT if the wood becomes too dense.
Colonisation: The new area being colonised is illustrated below. It is not exactly a new colony as we have walked this field for many years and normally found one or two specimens; we may be earlier this year. This field is grazed but fenced off from neighbouring paddocks where cattle were active. Today the grass was low, foot marks and dung were largely absent, so it is possible the site was not grazed since last year. Whatever the cause a quick survey (on our way home) showed that this was a good site for Spiranthes.  The MIDDLE image sows a slightly paler and shorter patch of grass — maybe wetter and maybe the Alders hadn’t done their fertilising job yet — where a number of Spiranthes were widely dispersed. This is typical natural habitat for this orchid. The Alders provide shelter and the low muddy grass makes an ideal bedding place for orchid seeds and their associated fungal mycorrhiza. But, note how much greener the pasture becomes as the Alder forest increases!
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Natural changes in  Spiranthes Numbers. Why does S. romanzoffiana appear in colonies?
JULY 30th
RIGHT This fine clump of 3 mature flowering specimens was the highlight of this weeks work. Obviously a mature root system has led these plants to propagate by producing lateral buds and vigorous growth. A similar cluster has been seen at L. Cullin for the past 5 years
Today’s report provides the numbers and displays significant specimens of Spiranthes romanzofffiana from the west shore of Lough Conn but,also, some analysis of the record pattern. Number of Specimens shown on Map =115

Pattern of Distribution — 2019

This was an interesting walk! We started at the southern limit of the map and walked most of the shore up to the northern point of the map. The lower half of the map featured ‘as evidence’ in a study published in 2018 [MORE]  That year much of the southern shore had evenly spaced records both about 1m from the waters edge and also in and around 1 m apart — a very regular pattern. A lot of these plants have not been seen this year and that part of the shore lacked large numbers but this was made up by large ‘colonies’ at the extreme bottom of the map, the Middle Section and, to a lesser extent, a large dispersed population on the Northern Section. NOTE: Part of the shore running from the most easterly point north-west to the top of the first bay, is unsuitable or has not been surveyed yet.

Why such a change in Pattern?

It could be down to a number of factors: 1. Erosion of the exposed straight coast leading to specimens on the shoreline being washed away. 2. Many specimens seen in 2017 could have been in their first year of flowering and lacked the nutrients to survive the following Winter. 3. The original specimens were very exposed on a shore largely devoid of much other vegetation.

Other linear patterns of distribution.

The Northern Section has a regular pattern like the 2017 records for the lower straight shore but spread much more widely apart.

Clustering.

A very interesting dense cluster (including the fine specimens shown RIGHT) occurred in the Middle Section of the Map. This short site held 40% of the total records for this days work!

Does Spiranthes produce colonies in

Ireland?

A very interesting point; S. romanzoffiana clearly has the mechanism to reproduce itself vegetatively  using the lateral buds it readily produces — even at this early stage these are already evident in this years specimens. The cluster shown here and a 4 part group of many years at L. Cullin show how effective these groups of plants can be. Invariably the plants are taller, lusher and greener. We presume this is due to a well established mycorrhizal network supplying all the plants in the ‘community’

Other colonies.

We have seen other colonies occurring either as loose groups, or in closer association, in fields away from the shoreline, i.e. areas not prone to natural disturbance. However, these are rare and generally plants or groups of plants are separated from one another by 50cm or more — perhaps too far for lateral buds to be credited as the shared link. But such plants could share mycorrhiza  linked through former supported plants which have now disappeared?

Non-colonies.

The spaced out regular distribution of individual specimens will have originated from other factors, not from vegetative reproduction. It could simply reflect the deposition of seeds along a wave lashed shore with some geographic or biological factor leading to specimens surviving at regular intervals be it 1m. or 10m. Perhaps the mycorrhizal network is less developed in areas where no pre-existing bond with Spiranthes exists?
The shoreline in the map ABOVE has a consistent nature and a fairly consistent aspect, i.e. facing East. This could be a factor in the presence of the species on Lough Conn. In previous studies at Lough Allen (Leitrim/Roscommon) the eastern shore of that lake was always a much better place for S. romanzoffiana than the west shore. We wondered was this because it faced the setting sun or the prevailing wind — bring seed and washing it ashore? In L. Conn the species seems to thrive in any location with a suitable habitat in a natural state. With reference to the map above it can be seen that the shore facing south east has the greatest population density. But there may be other factors at play here… It is exposed to Summer evening sun and is a particularly warm and dry patch of shoreline. This is due to the absence of a high barrier of trees at the back of this small section of shore. Further south the straight shore which now has few orchids is backed by a band of high grass and tall coniferous trees, making it cooler and shaded in Summer evenings…
LEFT

The Southern Section

Despite some variation in Spiranthes occurrence in this area, the shoreline — if not the back-shore — remains pretty consistent along its length with an almost uniform band of stony beach with consistent levels of rounded cobbles near the waters edge leading to larger boulders as the bare shore meets permanent vegetation. The permanent vegetation is consistently Alder and Willow with Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) widely present and closely associated with the orchid. The slope of the shore varies moderately from flat to 7.6%. The flat shore areas are normally sandy with little vegetation and often have Spiranthes. A steeper slope will have little vegetation and Spiranthes will stand out as a lone plant half way between the water and the shrub zone.

The Plants today.

The plants today were quick to appear, then tended to disappear becoming very scarce in bare shore with high grass back-shore alongside the forest. The re-appeared in great numbers as the shore curved towards the east and became warmer and almost devoid of grass. Harebell was a characteristic species of the stony back-shore at this location. The middle section of the Map had Alder bushes right up to the waters edge with the trees emerging from the water and no suitable substrate available for the orchid to grow. The specimens present varied from almost invisible to stunning groups in full flower. Indeed. one flower we found was already starting to go brown at the base of the flowering spike. The weather today was ideal for the species with damp misty conditions prevailing in the morning and clearing and warming up by noon. It must be remembered that this plant loves warm wet conditions and it will stop growing or even shrivel up in cold Summers. The persistent warm winds of early July have scorched not only huge numbers of trees in Co. Mayo but also burnt the tips of the leaves and buds of Spiranthes. How they cope with this weather depends on how will rooted they are. larger plants with larger flowers seem to survive better in dry or bitter conditions. Presumably they have more resources to tap into with longer roots reaching deeper into moist substrates.

Sample Specimens.

Below are a sample of flowers from small buds to large flowers, plus there is the magnificent threesome features at the top of this diary.

Micro-environment of the western shore (L. Conn)

The Middle Section (Surrounding Pictures)

This section can be defined (with reference to the map) as where the coast turns north easterly after a visible stream and estuary. The ground is stonier and more variable with more frequent open places populated with small Alders and large cobbles. It is, however, one of the more productive areas for S. romanzoffiana  around Lough Conn — on a par with the small Lagoon at the other side of the lake. The 5 images shown here represent impressions of a fairly consistent habitat with much settlement and some mature Spiranthes flourishing here.. . This is a small section of shore with a considerable number of specimens present. Judging by the distribution of plants, the size of some of the plants, and groups of flowering stems together, this is a mature site with many orchids two or three years old. This requires stability of the ground and the avoidance of erosion by Winter storms. This can be achieved by heavier stones, many anchored and stable Alder or Willow trees — even the many small Royal Ferns are omnipresent in this area. The Middle Section is separated from the Southern section by a small stream. Below this much erosion of a grassy bank with many orchids has occurred. Also, a bank that was first recorded (for Spiranthes) last year seems undisturbed but the orchids are gone. These changes highlight the differences between ‘new settlement’ and ‘stable colonies’. Many of the large numbers seen in the Southern Section in 2017 have disappeared after just 1 year; they may not have established lateral buds or strong roots so many seem to have been washed away. Why is the middle section so settled with well established mature orchids? All we can suggest is that this area is more stable due to aspect, stone size, or supporting vegetation, which allows new seedlings to survive the rough Winter season. Similarly the bunch at the lower end of the Southern Section.. Seeds are everywhere but a good safe bed is hard to find…
Bushes stabilise the shore and mud banks build up around the Birch and Alder saplings — another popular habitat for S. romanzoffiana. Numbers present here this year are good with some local variation. Spiranthes were missing from a small channel at the southern edge of the zone but numbers in the main patch had increased considerably. Photo (ABOVE) shows this shore with large cobbles and occasional boulders with Birch, Spiranthes and Osmunda adding to the rich flora of the area.

A grazed shore.

Grazing will normally eliminate S. romanzoffiana  from farmland. Orchids will only produce one flowering stem per year. This stem or bud may emerge in early Summer or leaves will often be present throughout the Winter. However, we have been coming across low grassy fields or shoreline where there is a low level of grazing and Spiranthes still seem to survive and flower. This may all occur within a week and over the full season in a farmed field there seems little chance for the orchid to be missed by curious cattle. They will leave Marsh Orchids but they always seem to find the rare Spiranthes romanzoffiana! One such site occurs in the Grazed Section on the Map just south of where the upper group of orchids are recorded on the map. In fact there were half a dozen specimens in this closely cropped field, to our surprise. Spiranthes and Cattle do not get along but yet people seem to cherish this rare plant they have in their midst. Imaginative conservation work may yield a methodology whereby grazing animals can be kept off valuable wildlife habitat and Farmers can be rewarded for conserving this and other species in perpetuity. The very large Grazed shore Section has not been surveyed yet but some orchids are surviving along with low level grazing.
SOUTHERN SECTION
MIDDLE SECTION
Unsuitable Habitat
GRAZED SECTION Survey NOT complete
NORTHERN SECTION
Just North of the stream, a colony of 8 Spiranthes survive here protected by small but sturdy Alders. These stabilise rocks when flooded and provide a stable substrate for Spiranthes, Royal Fern and a typical assortment of rocky foreshore creeping plants, Bog Pimpernel, Water Mint, Grass of Parnasus, Sedges etc. RIGHT An example of two ‘related’ specimens almost certainly derived from lateral buds. This is the start of a colony and an established presence of this species on this shore on a semi-permanent basis. Far RIGHT Taken from the water’s edge looking inwards, this image shows the small beach cobbles, larger boulders, substrate binding by Alders, growth of low grass (which suits S. romanzoffiana) and then taller vegetation and a wall of trees at the upper shore level. The smaller Alders are ideal for Spiranthes; the tall ones suffocate them.
ABOVE
Abundant orchids, in the same area, with 4 in the foreground and others further back. This is an ideal settlement zone with Spiranthes often springing up in the zone between bare shore and overgrown shore. Many seeding Marsh Orchid flowers are visible too. They occur everywhere Spiranthes grows.
An overhead view of another settlement zone with a greater proportion of Royal Fern and larger cobbles. Bigger stones represent stronger waves. Behind the shore in many parts of these Lakes large sentinels of xenoliths form the margins of the lake. These can be massive rocks 5m.+ in diameter deposited by local glaciation in Mayo and Galway in the Ice Age.
A colony of 3 independent plants (not sharing a root) originating from lateral buds of one plant or a parent plant now gone.

Northern Section.

This is the top of our survey area but not the top of L. Conn. however, beyond this point Spiranthes romanzoffiana is are particularly on western shore. It is more a question of suitable habitat rather than latitude. We have searched various areas in the north west of the lake and the main colony of S. romanzoffiana  found has been at The Lagoon… which we regard as a separate site altogether. Other smaller occurrences of Spiranthes have been found scattered west of the Deel River, e.g. at XXXX Abbey but other shores are gentler and more sheltered with less exposed stony beaches or with flat winter flooded marsh or grasslands — which Spiranthes love — but have been grazed more intensively. The Northern Section is consistently different from much of the western shore. It has grassy shore along the fishing shore at the north of the section but quickly opens up to wide stony very flat shores with the typical distribution pattern (for these shores) of single specimens at well-spaced intervals. Occasional groups of 1 - 3 specimens were found further away from the water’s edge where shady grass banks with Alder have become established. However, the number recorded is higher that last year and may further develop. This section ends with a wide holiday beach and fishing base with a low level of grazing. A considerable area of this exists spreading southwards and will be explored further before the season is over.
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Re-count of Spiranthes numbers in Drummin* Many more plants in some interesting niches.
August 1st
The purpose of this day’s outing was to re-survey our first site at *L. Cullin’s north east corner. This has already been checked but it was 3 weeks ago and much change could be expected. Also the area immediately west making up the north shore of L. Cullin as far as Pontoon which had yielded nothing at the start of the month was identified as worthy of further examination — although it was known to be either heavily or lightly grazed. We are now referring to this site as Drummin, as this is the name of the Wood bordering the north east shore of L. Cullin The two sites were walked together so a traverse was made from the north Car Park through the well known site (which has never been grazed), over the tiny stream onto farmland and along the rocky shore to the bridge at Pontoon. RESULTS:

Drummin Site: (CarPark 1 shown below)

The Drummin Site is situated in the north east corner of L. Cullin. It is a popular recreation area with sandy beaches, 3 Car Parks, and large numbers of Spiranthes. This old site was remarkable today, as it always is, yielding a total of almost 140  plants. Many buds may have been missed due to the amount of surveying but plants recorded were all in bud, mostly flowering well and very little sign of the blooms starting to lose their freshness. The 5 images from this work show the size and quality of the flowers encountered. They were magnificent. This site, whilst well known to plant lovers, is little disturbed and casual strollers never seem to wander into it. We sometimes wonder should they be encouraged? Part of the Site is a small enclave of Spiranthes in a Car Park fully visible to the public at this time of the year (BELOW). This is also a season when a small amount of rubbish can be seen here but it’s mostly taken away. The population here is about 40 at present and they are impressive and clear to see. But none have been disturbed or plucked. It is re-assuring! LEFT View of Car Park No. 1 (Foxford side) showing part of the extensive cluster of 40 plants in a small area where dogs wander and children play and S. romanzoffiana flourishes. Image area had 10 specimens though not all visible.

Various zones at Drummin Site.

The overall area of the Drummin Site, lying between the Car Parks on L. Cullin and the border fence to farmland at the far side of the bay, has several key habitats which seem to appeal to Spiranthes romanzoffiana. 1. The Beach at the CarPark 3 has a curved shore, a mainly straight wall of large boulders delineating the parking area and an extensive area of sand with naturally distributed large and small rocks depending on the water level. Spiranthes rare (1 or 2) due to usage of beach. 2. West of the Car Park a line of dense natural scrub runs parallel to a nearby local road with a feeling of isolation provided by the dampening of traffic sound by the trees. At low water level there is a wide area of sand but Spiranthes normally occur above this corresponding to Autumn water levels. In the ‘Spiranthes zone’ along this strip the shore is narrow  with a grassy strip in between boulders. This is a habitat the orchids love as they seem to get shelter from the rocks. The narrow shore leads to flat sandy submerged lower shore often exposed but in other places (again depending on water) having scattered Soft Rush and Phragmites Reed. Spiranthes often occurs in both habitats. Its occurrence in among tall reeds seems strange and may be a relict from recent past as this shore is rapidly changing and transforming. 3. Raised Island Bay. This square bay is broad and shallow and provides a large area of mud/sand where Spiranthes will occur. It is facing SE so quite sheltered from the worst of westerly winds. It is rapidly evolving and ecological succession is taking place at a rapid pace. Initially it was open water with small sandbanks scattered here and there — an ideal location for Spiranthes seeds to wash up on. These banks quickly became grassy hummocks with an impressive number of orchids on each mound. Now, the area nearest to the shore has an emergent woodland of Alder and Bog Myrtle to the exclusion of Spiranthes. But, there are plenty more similar processes taking place further out into the lake and good numbers of S. romanzoffiana were found there today.
July 18th
ABOVE A strong Orchid emerging from dense vegetation on one of the oldest settled banks at the eastern side of the sandy beach. Mature Spiranthes are found here and a clump of 4 self-budded plants survived here for 5 years — now gone!
ABOVE A well colonised sandbank with mature specimens emerging still in good numbers. This is taken from the edge of a bush covered island looking towards an exposed sandy reef with minimal woody vegetation cover. Only mature orchids survive in the foreground; the barer island had many smaller and younger plants.
Total numbers counted at Drummin today was 98 (40 more at CP 3 on 5th), a big increase on previous searches. This number could still increase considerably as maps need to be compared and it is possible specimens logged on previous counts could have been missed this time. Also, plants are still emerging and closed buds are still frequent around the Lough Conn sites (the neighbouring lake to the North) but no unopened buds were seen at L. Cullin today.

Grazed Site to the West

The remaining photographs refer to a grazed shoreline along the northern shore of Lough Cullin. This was surveyed (quickly) recently and no specimens were recorded. It seemed almost time to discard this shore as it was seen to be grazed throughout its length and we had few records from the area. There were some recorded last year from western part of the shore coming up to the channel joining L. Cullin to L. Conn but no records from the eastern part of this coast adjoining the Drummin colonies. However weather and curiosity invited us to explore once more and it proved very worthwhile. The farmland adjoining the sandy bay was extremely heavily grazed with a large number of cattle obviously rooting around in between the boulders and the short stumpy Alders of the coast. Further west, after several fences, more and more Spiranthes began to be recorded. Cattle were evident from their dung and hoof prints but were rarely seen as this is very tortuous countryside with many bays and inlets and sharp promontories formed by collected glacial xenoliths. Over the western half of this north coast cattle were free to roam and they had identified all the good grass fields and spent much of their time grazing there or resting on the warm sandy soil. This left the wilder areas, with dense bushes and high clustered rocks, free for the orchids to occupy. Cattle were seen grazing in a field with orchids but mainly the orchids survived in areas difficult for the cattle to graze. Good numbers were located but nowhere as dense or as easy to survey as in The Bay. S. romanzoffiana is a resourceful species and seems able to survive well in the west of Ireland where their favoured conditions are found and where they are not disturbed or their habitat is improved for agricultural purposes.

Does Grazing eliminate Spiranthes romanzoffiana?

Wildlife and wild flowers have to survive alongside agriculture. Farming is a living for people. Wildlife is akin to a spiritual connection with our past and species like Spiranthes are very useful indicators of where Ireland’s nature, and even the country itself, is going. Their sudden demise may  provide an early indication of a decline in the richness of the country — a loss of biodiversity — but we don’t expect such a loss with this species, anyway!

But can everything survive together…

… with a little care and much research, perhaps? The secret is finding a place for everything and the ‘thoughtful cattle of L. Cullin’ may have just done that. Grazing will destroy the remarkable flower of Spiranthes but the plant lives on? The leaves needed for photosynthesis are small and unattractive to cattle, so the plant may survive. This rugged north shore is a mixture of sharp promontories made up of ‘casually dumped’ glacial rocks of considerable dimension. They have formed the very coast behind which flat rich alluvial pastures survive. The rough ground is ideal for the orchids; the sweet moist sheltered wild pastures are great for the cattle. With a little thought and more research a methodology of promoting both to the benefit of the farmer and the naturalist might easily be reached. It is worth reaching as Ireland is an outstandingly beautiful and diverse region and we’d like to see it stay that way! The Evidence (LEFT and RIGHT) shows the two specimens we first came across after traversing a stretch of barren (of Spiranthes) land. The one on the right was sheltering under an Alder tree, where the soil is richer, with the rugged terrain behind it. Cattle could easily have munched this one… but they didn’t?. The plant (LEFT) was obviously walked on but did survive and went on to produce a fine flower head which may go on to release many seeds and further disperse its species. It is possible cattle don’t like Spiranthes and don’t eat it, as in the way they avoid the many Marsh Orchids growing along this shore?

Last Images of a beautiful day…

Pursuing orchids leads one into beautiful places. By and large they are not to be found where people abound — apart from Car Parks! Far LEFT It is always when you are tired-est that you come upon a beautiful image such as this. The plant was posing to be photographed. This plant was overlooking the bay where the channel coming from Lough Conn enters L. Cullin. The water is deeper and more open with fewer rocks breaking the surface. L. Conn stretches north from here to close to the north Mayo coast and the Atlantic. But instead of flowing that short distance north the R. Moy starts its long journey here, flowing south through Conn and Cullin only to turn north again after exiting the twin lakes near Foxford to eventually follow a straight route to the sea at Ballina amd Killala Spiranthes romanzoffiana is an adventurous species with seeds coming in the wind across the North Atlantic [MORE] to populate our shores and then producing seed in L. Conn and L. Cullin which may well be washed away as water rises on those two lakes and then flows south and north to the Atlantic once again!

Special Plants:

LEFT There is something special about Spiranthes! It often seems to pose, on a headland or a promontory, just a little bit above water. Actually it happens to land in the soil, silt or sand where it grows and only in our minds is it ‘posing’? The water has simply withdrawn. S. romanzoffiana always occurs very close to water. It will grow underwater if the land is flooded at its usual flowering period. But it needs dry Autumn weather for the seeds to develop and fly away. Like all orchids, Spiranthes produces minuscule seeds by the millions and these are easily carried away by the wind. [MORE] The intricate engineering of the flowers is remarkable. Is their something implicit in the spiral that maximises the amount of flowers and seed that can be produced or facilitates access by pollinators? This specimen is as good as we get in Ireland. Ireland’s Autumn temperature doesn’t really suit this species and for many years seed was hard to find. It is not really a species of this continent but we are glad to have it. Last year (2018) was a good year and this year we are hoping for a large stock of flowering plants to be able to survive into September and October and release millions more seeds!
1. Numbers today on ‘Drummin Site, from L. Cullin north car park and adjoining bay as far as fenced off farm… 138 (versus 2 on 9th and 26 on 18th July) 2. North shore area west of above site as far as Pontoon Bridge. Today 45 (as opposed to none on 9th July though area not fully searched on that date.) These figures show remarkable increases in 2 weeks and is very significant in this new area where grazing was heavy to light throughout the zone.
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RIGHT The best of both worlds. Lush wild pasture for passing Cows and shelter behind rocks and Alder bushes for S. romanzoffiana There is a long section of open (unfenced) coastline here and it is the boulders and xenoliths that control where the cattle wander. They have preferred narrow passages from one grassy bay to the next and seem slow to wander of the established pathway
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Part I:  Today’s story is one of two opposite sites on 2 different lakes. A duty call was made to a location at the upper end of the mid west shore of L. Conn. i.e. above the highly successful site where the western survey was last done on July 30th. Part of this site is very suitable for Spiranthes with wide stretches of almost flat grass covered mud/sand flats backed by Alder carr and with various small geographic features (bays, backwaters, large boulders) — all ideal for Spiranthes. Only four plants were recorded over a stretch of 1.5km, 1 at the northern end and 3 surviving around one excavated Alder root further south. The reason for going back to this site is to complete the research; one cannot assume with such a versatile species that this orchid will either be present, absent or abundant,. The level shore seems to reflect an area of deposition as the mature Alder strip is up to 100m back from the shore with a wide band of occasional scattered bushes over the flat area. The ground is a mix of small boulders with sand and fine silt which means, with wave action and further deposition, the surface of this shore is like a football pitch in places. It has probably been a good location for S. romanzoffiana  in the past but it is now good extra grazing for cattle. To facilitate this a large part of the shore has been systematically cleared of new Alders. However, we must accept the value of this shore in providing good grazing and sustaining the typical single suckler herd beef farming typical of much of the west of Ireland. There are plenty of other sites around these twin lakes that provide good risk-free habitats for this orchid and, some that provide very suitable conditions for growth but are exposed to more risk from wandering animals or adverse weather factors, e.g. The Lagoon which we will be discussing again in the next blog.
LEFT One of the few surviving trio in the middle of the area cleared for grazing. Last year, when the clearance work seemed to have recently ended, there were more plants surviving. This year all the orchids recorded were in the area of one small pond.
ABOVE This is an image of the surviving habitat.  It is a small pool remaining after an Alder tree has been pulled up mechanically, roots and all. The soil has not being replaced, and the typical Spiranthes habitat of rounded pebbles, sandy pockets, and grassy edges, has developed. With increasing rainfall and storms natural seeding and the development of a smooth grassy field may not proceed so easily.

Conservation and Farming…

At the time of writing the need to develop and sustain an income off such land from beef farming is in the News. We, of course, would wish to see the the survival of Ireland’s rare and important biodiversity, but not at the expense of anyone’s welfare and survival on the land. The need for landowners to be facilitated in making a living from their land, and in protecting landscape, is ever more pressing and is essential both in regard to a changing climate and the change in attitudes to health and diet in our population. Rare parts of our unusual biodiversity, like S. romanzoffiana, are useful indicators of when our nature is under pressure or our weather is changing the way we live.

The Habitat… the Environment.

So a somewhat sombre survey (and it was unusually cold and wet) but it completed part of our Spiranthes work for another year! At the southern end of this stretch of coast there is an area unsuitable for Spiranthes — Willows and Alder right down to the water’s edge and loose boulders below that. Other locations are populated by reeds and sedges and seem to have shallow, more or less permanent water, and this also is not ideal for the orchid. They appreciate water, will survive winter flooding but won’t grow regularly in ground naturally under water. But several other plants will — including the very tall Water Mint found under willows (LEFT) and the area of mixed grasses found in front of the spectacular clump of Royal Fern shown on the RIGHT. Royal Fern, often a rarity and a delight to see in many parts of the country, is abundant and seemingly getting more abundant every year. On every stony shore where Spiranthes occurs, Osmunda regalis will be its neighbour. This particular habitat looks species rich and rewarding for other botanical studies… but not for Spiranthes romanzoffiana!

Part II

The second part of today’s survey was east and south of the above location, on Lough Cullin. Yes a second visit was made to Car Park #1! This is a strange habitat with a large number of Spiranthes flowering and surviving in the middle of a beach beside a car park and undisturbed by holiday-makers running all over the site. At this time of the year the orchids are obvious and beautiful but are being very much left alone. The return visit to the site was to check up on how they were surviving in this holiday season. They have survived very well. Many more plants have emerged since the last survey, the original plants are tall and elegant and showing only the slightest bit of wear as the lower flowers start to die. Again the weather was poor during this short visit so the orchids and the photographer were wet — and a bit too hasty perhaps! There may be reasons why this enclave appears to be secure? Perhaps Irish people are less inclined to collect wild flowers or they may realise that this is something different and beautiful. Perhaps it is because even though it is right beside a Car Park vehicles don’t have access to this Tennis Court size site. Also, pathways leading from the Car Park to the Beach have become established and the long grass and stumpy bushes — where the Spiranthes are — invite people to walk on the pathways? 40+ specimens present here today.
LEFT Looking up from Beach to Parking area, a distance of c. 20m.There are 8 - 10 orchids in this view, though all not visible.
RIGHT Looking across the site parallel to the water line. This group of six Spiranthes are probably lined up like this reflecting the water level on this shore at the time the  seeds landed.
LEFT A new bud arrives, and there were many of them. August 5th. is sometimes the hight point in this species flowering season and, depending on weather, flowers may be wilting or dying at this stage. Cold weather now has a disastrous effect on reproduction of this species in Ireland — an issue that much less affects its American brethren that seem to grow further removed from water than our typical plants.
ABOVE A fully matured specimen, though a flower like this can appear in a couple of weeks and this specimen may not have been seen the last time we visited. (Because of the closeness of specimens we cannot fully resolve their location using GPS!) Last year specimens survived much later into the Autumn and, as we reported, much seed was released and nearly every plant produced lateral buds. The new generation produced by seed will not be evident for a number of years but another good seed production season would yield great results for European stocks of this species. They might even be found in Wales!
LEFT This area consists of about half a dozen small or slightly larger sandbanks colonised by vegetation. This picture shows one of these ‘islands’ showing the typical colonisation  that takes place with Spiranthes being one of the early colonisers only to marginalised by greases and small bushes of Willow and Myrtle. The occurrence of Spiranthes on the margins simply reflects, we believe, this being a viable area for a floating seed to be deposited and to settle whereas in grass the seed would never even reach the substrate.
August 14th
The Lagoon (NE Conn) and Massbrook Fishing Harbour (S. Conn). Disturbance and new plants at Lagoon; numerous new records from Massbrook south shore.
August 5th
West, L. Conn survey and Cullin Car Park 1 recounted. Few at Conn; many more plants emerging at the Cullin Car Park.

Grazing on Orchid site.

These THREE pictures show the lakeshore, a path through the Alder Carr, and damage wrought by heavy cattle in soft ground. Much effort has been made to fence these few marshy fields as presumably they may be treacherous to livestock and this has resulted in a haven of great worth for the rare Spiranthes. Damage was not evident as we approached the most northern bay of L. Conn from the east. The east side of the marsh was well fenced with little sign of animal intrusion. LEFT This photograph was taken at the mouth of the lagoon. At the other side of the channel there is a long flat grass-topped shore crossing the bay and entering farmland at the west side of the bay. This is easy to walk on apart from the first 10m. where Alder Carr hangs out over the water. RIGHT On returning from exploring the opposite shore we sought a gap in the Alders and came upon this path recently made by a group of cattle in single file. This brought them to the flat bare lagoons with the small islands and channels along which Spiranthes lives. Damage was considerable as they emerged from the wood (Far Right) but less further in. The electric fence shows the effort made to keep cattle in but they had walked all the way over from the far side of the bay! 

Many new Records.

This was a strange day with many unexpected new records and some unexpected entry of cattle onto a site we felt was secure. However, the overall conclusion has to be that Spiranthes romanzoffiana is in safe hands overall in the Conn/Cullin lakes. There is so much habitat here that there is plenty of room for both orchids, cattle and the farmers. We simply wish that these diverse plant riches could somehow be of benefit to the community and the land that maintains them. It is a great joy to live among such rare plants and to be able to record them and occasionally point them out to other people, Irish and from overseas. Some damage has occurred but other flowers have emerged in unexpected places.

Colonising new areas: (LEFT and lower LEFT)

In the fascinating way that this magical plant seems to adapt to sudden changes in its environment, new habitats are being created and new plants were found here today. These two photographs show a a part of The Lagoon further back from the lake shore. In past years this has often been a dry sandy pan with very little to attract the orchids. But water level is higher this year and we are seeing more specimens emerge in this now wetter area than in previous years. The photographs show 3 specimens (and there were many more) growing on the edges of a small pond. Pond formation has happened before on this shore about, 150m. to the west where a former lagoon has been cut off from the lake and is now a permanent pond — but with no Spiranthes! Of course, there is no magic involved. It is just that like most orchids this species produces huge numbers of seed from every fertilised flower and this is distributed locally or even over vast distances. These seeds are reputed to take many years to produce a flowering plant and only do so after being ‘nursed’ by mycorrhiza (fungal associates present where orchids grow). The emergence of these plants this year is probably just a result of the wetter conditions making this habitat more suitable for a flowering orchid to emerge. It is wonderful to see new S. romanzoffiana in new places at the same time as an older site is not available due to competition? The numbers found here today… 62 

Pioneers.

Spiranthes romanzoffiana can grow from the same stock for 1 to 5 years (or more). Plants tend to be stronger after their first year as by emerging from the ground they can photosynthesise and provide nutrition to their own roots instead of being totally dependent on support from the underground fungal roots. One group of plants has been followed for 5 years at L. Cullin but, unfortunately, has failed to re-appear so far this year. By contrast specimens emerging for their first season above ground tend to be very small, thin and weak and may either produce a small bud or may not flower for that year. This would refer to specimens originating from seed — i.e. springing up where no other Spiranthes exists. The pattern of emergence shown in these photographs suggests seed source. Of course, most Spiranthes plants often produce 2 0r 3 lateral buds (new ‘stems’ originating from a parent plant just below ground level) and this will lead to clumps of Spiranthes growing from the same stock though they do develop independent root systems. Lateral budding will quickly increase the population in a small space. New plants that don’t flower may well be ‘concentrating’ on storing nutrients and enlarging their roots so that lateral buds may be produced and the colony be established. One sees photographs from North America showing large groups of S. romanzoffoiana but in Ireland we have never seen a group greater than four.
Massbrook Fishing Harbour site.
A quick visit to this site started at 5pm with all the orchid bearing part of the shore covered. The shore faces north, mainly exposed small and large cobbles, and  is very gently sloped. This is  the shore where an attempt to install a boating facility led to part of the shore being bulldozed and a sizeable part of the habitat destroyed. However, this work has stopped and the scraped shore will probably adopt more Spiranthes in years to come. The shore was damaged 4 years ago and now seems suitable for re-colonisation and, perhaps, new specimens appearing next year. (You will excuse us if we do not identify the area any more specifically.) This site was briefly checked on 18th. July when none were found. Today it has a good number of S. romanzoffiana regularly distributed along all its normal haunts. This is a small section of shore which curves onto a north pointing promontory. This has been surveyed but did not yield any further Spiranthes. However east of this promontory there is a series of shallow bays separated by tree covered head lands. These rocky bays have not yet been explored and may be suitable; another site for S. romanzoffiana in the Conn/Cullen area is always worth finding! RIGHT A typical pair of plants from this shore…  Spiranthes seems to flower later here maybe as a result of the generally grittier and better drained shoreline. Even the tall grass areas with lush bushes  growing on storm beaches at the back of the strand, is a popular area for this orchid. Royal Fern is also very common along this shoreline.

Massbrook Bay south shore.

54 specimens were recorded here today. No specimens are growing on the damaged site but the total number is up on previous years. The shoreline seems little used apart from an active angling community with c. 30 boats beached on the strand. But this does not disturb the orchids — they just grow under the boats and around the Car Park. These images show mature flowers (LEFT) and a newly opened bud (RIGHT). This is a typical mix of specimens from this stony shore and all have developed since the 18th July when none were recorded. Typically Spiranthes romanzoffiana will emerge when it is ready. In terms of years this means when the seed has settled and the root has matured (over 5 years many suggest), then the first above ground life of the plant will be initiated. In a particular year specimens may emerge from the beginning of July until the end of August but this is very much dependent on weather and habitat conditions at the site. If the location is underwater plants may still emerge and flower which seems… weird! But one must remember that this plant is not designed for Ireland (or indeed Europe). It is a continental North American species and over there is much commoner further away from water and less likely to be flooded. The Irish climate is much less predictable and flowers may be quickly affected by rising water levels even in mid-Summer. But what will stop these from developing is cold wind over their sites as they emerge. A chilly wind, or cold drizzly days, stunt this plant and such weather, as we have often had particularly at L. Allen up to five years ago, will stop these plants in their tracks. A week like that and plants will start to wilt. In recent years the weather has been warmer and dry. Occasionally Spiranthes have wilted from drought   — but they can recover from this rapidly when some rain returns.
Two mature plants with lower flowers withering but no enlargement of ovary signifying fertilisation… as of yet.
A newly emerged shoot with nearly all flowers open and none withering, probably no more than a week old.
BELOW: First image we have got this year of fertilised flowers. The ovary at the bottom of this flower is swelling and showing the signs of seed development.
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LOG Time Line… JUL 9   JUL18   JUL 23   JUL 30   AUG 1   AUG 5   AUG 14   AUG 17   AUG 23   AUG 25   SEPT 3   SEPT 21
August 17th
Terrybaun, South Lough Conn. New different and interesting site with many new Spiranthes records. (46 new Specimens)

Terrybaun.

Terrybaun is a townland astride the twisty road from Pontoon to Massbrook. It is a difficult site to access with several promontories to be negotiated if walking over from Massbrook Fishing Strand. But today was a wild day with squalls, stiff breeze, rain and sunshine. But the place is beautiful, the water is so clean and, unlike many shores explored for S. romanzoffiana, it slopes steeply into deep water. Hence the clean fresh and undisturbed narrow shore at headlands and broader shores in bays in between…. which did contain Spiranthes. This is a remote location with no visible disturbance on the shore.
BELOW and RIGHT The rocky nature of the shore is different here than at any other shore. The shore slope is steeper and probably prevents Spiranthes growing in many parts. Bedrock (inc. limestone) is visible, the water is rapidly deep and clear and orchids mainly found in the sheltered grassy bays in between.

The Habitat.

For S. romanzoffiana  to colonise and survive on a shore certain characteristics are required: shore needs to be flat or very gently sloping. shore must contain a component of sand, mud or silt. boulders provide useful shelter but must be embedded and solid. if shores are too steep waves will wash up them and then wash back down again; no orchid seeds can survive this. Spiranthes can often thrive away from alkaline habitats but the presence of limestone here is interesting. It is rare to see bedrock on L. Conn? As you can see from some of the photographs this is a shore with long stretches of rock or large boulders. It is vegetated in between but we suspect that the steep slope of c. 10° may have produced such a strong backwash from waves breaking on the shore that both Spiranthes seeds and even the sand/silt substrate was removed from these shores. So, the shore shown at Top Right had 5 orchids in the bay at the top, 1 near the bedrock, and none in between. However another niche exists in sheltered bays and these can be very flat, sandy, with small Alders and a broad shore, as shown in the Image on the right where 14 specimens were encountered within a very small area. Specimens occurred from the existing water level up the shore for c. 10m reflecting the flat landscape of these sheltered bays. In these areas we have seen density of Spiranthes greater than elsewhere on L. Conn but similar to the flat sands of L. Cullin.

Some Terrybaun specimens.

LEFT The delightful Grass of Parnassus is of the Family Celastraceae which is mainly tropical but having a few species or geners in temperate regions, e.g. Parnassia palustris. Despite its isolated status this plant is widespread wherever Spiranthes are found and indeed occurs in many marshy or coastal areas around Ireland. Both Parnassia and Spiranthes thrive in identical situations. They like stony and grassy flat shores and fields and can be widespread and occur over a much broader range than S. romanzoffiana. Still, they are a useful indicator that other rare plants may be around. RIGHT This lonely sentinel marked the end of a rough walk around a promontory towards another bay. Typically there were willows growing around a small stream entering the lake and beyond an area of flat stony ground rich in friable substrate and settled small herbs in among occasional bushes and… as we hoped… plenty more Spirtanthes
BELOW A glorious cluster of 4 almost perfect Spiranthes flowers growing together. These are undoubtedly siblings growing tightly tightly together and developing from lateral buds produced by a single Spiranthes some years previously. This is only the second cluster of four plants that we have ever found. They are rare here due to Ireland’s cool and rainy climate holding them back from growing and developing their leaf and root systems in the Autumn after flowering is completed Interestingly this group of plants were much smaller than a similar group found in Drummins Bay (L. Cullin) which were very impressive plants and never really changed much in size over their 4 or 5 years until they disappeared (?) finally this year, 2019. Production of groups result from the process of lateral budding whereby every viable emerging Spiranthes will produce lateral buds during the Summer to propagate the orchid and to develop a viable community in an environment that is also sustaining and not too rough for the needs of the species.
These 3 images are from the eastern point of the Terrybaun area and depict a small restricted shoreline area where sedimentation has occurred by either the small stream entering the lake here or from lateral drift of small particles driven by waves coming from the west. This material, or some other similar material, is essential to embed Spiranthes. This was a small site but containing many Spiranthes so it is evident that wherever there are suitable conditions in this part of the west of Ireland there will be Spiranthes seeds available to stock the area. In view of the rarity of this plant in Europe (Scotland and Ireland) this is very re-assuring. In 12 years studying this plant we have often wondered how they survived as those early years had a series of cold early Autumns with plants rotting, drowning, and never releasing seed. But NOW with better Summers (?) and an expanded research area it seems safe to say that this interesting species is secure here…
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August 23rd
Pontoon, north bay, Conn upper west shore, and L. Cullin east shore. Spiranthes Habitats and no-show sites. (8 new Specimens)

Survey work:

In our research work we rely heavily on satellite data, imagery and maps. For coasts unknown to us, this can be a bit hit or miss. East of Terrybaun (reported above) is another area of north facing coast with a shoreline visible from space. However this shoreline is straight and forested whereas the Terrybaun area contained much grassland, gardens, and little bays. So, when we arrived at our destination it should not have surprised us but we were faced with a long linear exposure of bedrock. (RIGHT) Not a vertical cliff but very hard to traverse and with no suitable habitats for S. romanzoffiana. Perhaps it might be called a wasted (and an arduous) journey but at this stage we are trying to unearth previously un-visited habitats that will contain more specimens. Apart from the coasts there is always the possibility of the numerous undisturbed islands which we had hope to visit — perhaps next year
ABOVE Cliffs of warm pinkish igneous rocks lining the shore of this area north of Pontoon before plunging straight into deep water with hardly any flat shoreline.  RIGHT Whilst there were no interesting orchids there was a lot of this unusual saxifrage filling the horizontal cracks in the cliff. This is the St. Patrick’s Cabbage (Saxifraga spathularis), a plant we associate with Kerry but also common in Mayo and occurring here probably because of the isolation of the site and plenty of warm westerly rain. Nice to see but another indication that this area was not compatible with Spiranthes

Lough Conn Upper West Shore: (BELOW)

Some distance north of Pontoon between 2 Spiranthes sites, lies this graveyard. To the south lies a sharp pointed bay with a sandy shore much used by fishermen, containing many Spiranthes along its southern shore and on the outer shore heading southwards towards the major Spiranthes site fronting the forest plantation which we report again in the next Report. This is Addergoole cemetery [MAP], an ancient burial place with markers ranging from simple stones, to unusual pointed gravestones, to modern burials. We tend to seek out places on islands, lake-shores, or by the sea, to bury our people — undisturbed peaceful places often associated with S. romanzoffiana. But we have never come across Spiranthes (either species) at a graveyard. This site was visited for ease of access to the lake but the shore, both to the north and south, proved unsuitable for the species being low-lying, reedy and having onshore grazing. Another ‘religious’ site to the north, Errew Abbey, does have a few Spiranthes and has been an area of quiet contemplation for generations..

Fallow sites:

Both these areas can be deemed barren as far as Spiranthes goes but they are scenic, geologically interesting, and do have the St. Patricks Cabbage!  

East L. Cullin:

The area of L. Cullin from the Moy outflow up to the series of Car Parks yielded 8 new specimens, which is consistent with past indications. The Middle and Upper Car Parks also have low numbers but the amazing little site at Car Park No. 1 (the one nearest Foxford) was confirmed at 43 specimens. A reproductive analysis of this colony was undertaken with most specimens bearing lateral buds and many showing swollen ovaries. The weather is turning a bit colder as August comes to a close and this may slow down or stop full development of seeds on many specimens — such as we had last year. But 2018 was an exceptional year in our 14 year experience of this species. Further reporting on this issue to follow…
August 25th
Knockmore Inlet east L. Conn and Re-count Lough Conn LWS. (Lower West Shore) Stable population at south of area but many new specimens appearing at north end of stretch.

Knockmore Inlet: Spiranthes count for today = 16

This is a location which was important in the past and featured in an important research paper into the occurrence and genetics of S. romanzoffiana  in Ireland. The east shore of L. Conn has not been good for this species in recent years. In 2012 this shore had many groups, and large numbers, of Spiranthes scattered along its shore. The shore is different from the west shore with many farms directly on the water whereas on the western shore there tends to be forestry, woodland, bog and rough terrain bordering the foreshore. In recent years cattle have become prevalent all along the east shore to the detriment of Spiranthes. Farmers are anxious to maximise return on what is mainly a subsistence way of life. There are probably significant clusters of S. romanzoffiana still surviving, perhaps out on islands — that are not grazed. LEFT Today’s visit to Knockmore Inlet proved productive with this fine specimen being seen soon after we reached the shore. The shore line here is flat, grassy with a little ledge marking the normal water level. This specimen was away from the shore on raised ground which was clearly grazed; the cattle had somehow missed this and 5 other specimens! RIGHT Specimen flowering in water and a large seed-head.
 LEFT  ‘’Bitter Shore!’ We call it thus as we must have surveyed this shore every year for 7 years and never found anything! It is outside the spit that protects the mouth of this inlet. In many ways it is suitable, with big boulders and Alder for shelter, facing a good direction, and being undisturbed. We think the reason it is unproductive is the same as why we fear it. It is full of holes with large gaps between boulders not filled up by sand or mud. Normally beaches like this on L. Conn are smooth between the boulders. This beach is being scoured and the seeds (of Spiranthes) and the sand are being washed away! RIGHT Further into the inlet is a quiet flooded area between an Alder covered beach, a couple of walls, and a small sandbank at the mouth of the channel leading to the open lake. This has been a fruitful area in the past and so it was today. 16 specimens were found in the Knockmore Inlet as a whole; this is an increase on the very small numbers found over previous years. Most specimens were found either in, or at, the water’s edge… and this was to be the pattern for the rest of the day!

Lough Conn LWS: Spiranthes count for today = 66 new specimens making a total of 141 now recorded  on the LWS

The Lower West Shore of L. Conn is a productive zone for Spiranthes with a solid wall of woodland/Forestry protecting the back of the shore. This shore is generally flat without big boulders but with a stony/pebbly foreshore of a very constant width. This is the shore that prompted our theory of an American source for the dispersal of seed of S. romanzoffiana to Ireland. That year, 2017, there was an almost military precision in the distribution of seedlings along the shore. They were a constant distance from the waterline (at the time of that survey) and they were single specimens regularly placed along the shore… very odd! Of course, there were coincidences involved in that pattern. i.e. those seeds weren’t placed there that year, or the year before, but many years previously when water conditions were similar and seeds floated ashore in calm weather to settle under the sand and start to develop underground. BUT, it is clear that the pattern of distribution seen that year could only have been explained by a water placement of seed landing on the lake and drifting ashore. HOWEVER those plants have not re-emerged in the same numbers and that straight column of specimens no longer is there. Many plants simply failed to re-emerge either last year (2018) or this year. Have they died, or did they exhaust themselves with the spectacular show in 2017, or has the shore simply been eroded? Further north, where the straight coast turns eastwards, there is severe erosion but this typical site has remained visually undisturbed — nor is there any grazing anywhere on this shore.
ABOVE:  11 people from Addergoole died on the Titanic’s maiden voyage in April 2012   [MORE]
RIGHT This is Pontoon Bridge through which all water flows from L. Conn southwards into L. Cullin before exiting via the Moy river and heading back north to Ballina and the Atlantic Ocean Perhaps this is a factor in the large numbers of Spiranthes found at Drummin in the NE corner of L. Cullin. One can imagine an eddy, or a vortex. forming with heavy flows of water and seed from all the L. Conn colonies drifting ashore in a quiet sheltered bay?
RIGHT  Looking north from Pontoon with Cliff Island in front and the shoreline explored on the north of the headland on the left. At the left of the image the start of a large reed bed with a tussocky bog behind it can be seen. This, and the dense woodland, rule out this whole peninsula for significant occurrence of Spiranthes.

Highlights: Water Level.

Two significant events in this sector today. Firstly, water levels have risen significantly on L. Conn. The image LEFT shows a part of a large cluster of Spiranthes from L. Conn LWS. The water level today was 0.685* whereas it was 0.344  on our last visit here on 30th July. Water levels were low until the 11th August but have crept up steadily since then. About 50% of specimens recorded on both days are now under water. This may not harm them but strong wave or current action will flatten then and ruin their seed production possibilities RIGHT Another FRILLY. This specimen is one of a very small number (among 1,000’s) of slightly modified specimens of S. romanzoffiana we have seen on the Mayo Lakes. The typical specimen, recorded last year, had a jointed stem with a flower and an articulation at each ‘node’, and a distinctive splitting in the upper petal and sepals… giving the plant a totally different appearance. This specimen shows that frilly characteristic and a slight tendency to separate flowers at the lower part of the flowering spike.
* Water Levels are in metres above the base of the Gauge at Corryosla, SW L. Conn

Prospects for Reproductive success in 2019:

Now is the time when the main spurt of lateral bud growth and the seasonal fattening of seeds packages takes place. We are collecting data on these features as we go but the biometrics and recording are our main task at present. We will gather together our evidence of reproduction when the success, or otherwise, of the season becomes clear. It would be nice to have another year with widespread release of seed into the atmosphere. Years like 2018 don’t come along often! The present cooling and wetter conditions and, in particular, cool nights will impair seed production. There seems to be a correlation between seed production and the growth of lateral buds. If warm and dry Autumn conditions don’t continue the flowers will shrivel up into tight brown twists; if the weather is suitable the ovaries will continue to develop, they will become turgid, and specialised tissue will develop in vertical bands up the length of the ovary. These are also very clear in Marsh Orchids which are presently at this stage on the Mayo lakes. It seems as if the function of these bands is explode the seed pod and eject the tiny seeds within. Spiranthes will need a few more weeks to reach that stage of maturity. We will know in another couple of weeks.
Only 8 specimens known from this part of the L. Cullin coast from the Moy outflow to Car Park 1 in the north east corner of the lake. Heavy shore line growth and a raised bank in places are probably responsible.
One of the finest specimens recorded today with luxurious leaves. Probably, judging by the freshness of the lower flowers, a new plant since the last count at the end of July.
A mature specimen on the upper part of the LWS, this specimen made a fine portrait in the water. It will survive but the seeds may not!
A totally new plant struggling to survive. It was barely 8cm high with half of its flower underwater.
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Cliffs of Ox Mountain Granodiorite, an igneous rock similar to Granite but with different proportions of Quartz and Felspar and having more black mica (Biotite). The sharp straight edge is the Knockaskibbole Fault which runs from near Castlebar to south of L. Talt separating L. Conn from L. Cullin and provides the unusual amount of outcrop  found on the southern shore of L. Conn.
September 3rd
Car Park No. 1, Derrin, east L. Cullin Return of usual Autumnal flooding

Machiavellian Botany!!!

Forgive a little bit of Headlining; it’s not that the weather is ‘devious, scheming, treacherous, two-faced…’; it just seems that way! But It has been a good Summer and false confidence from last years brilliant Autumn, and this years long months of unhindered plant-watching, inevitably make one hopeful of seeing further progress in research. As shown in the previous Log the water level in the Twin Lakes has been rising steadily since mid-August. At the end of August this turned into much heavier rain with no signs of a let-up. This may be the end of the Spiranthes season. It has been a good one but there is little prospect of any S. romanzoffiana around Lough Conn or Lough Cullin surviving this flooding even in the unlikely event of water levels dropping fast. The recent history of Water levels at L. Conn is shown below and you can use this data to refer to images from the many dates reported in this Log over the past 2 months.
RIGHT

Water Levels at L. Cullin today.

Graphic showing the extent of flooding. The blue overlay on Car Park 1 is based on GPS points taken today at the waters edge in this bay. At present all orchids (as indicated by the Green and Blue symbols) are well under water. Towards the end of August two elegant twins were flowering here, about 30 cms. tall. They are now buried under 25cms of water. One plant still upright, the other flower broken off and hanging by a thread. It is not so much the flooding that damages these plants but the wave action that can quickly flatten their tall thin stems.
BELOW: There are 47 Spiranthes here — recorded on the 18th July and 5th August (Blue Pins). The distri- bution here is interesting with the later flowers appearing further back on the site… maybe older plants?

RIGHT  

Analysis

of Observations

This plain sketch is one of the ways we monitor and record the distribution of S. romanzoffiana. Recording is done using a hand held GPS with a reputed accuracy of 2 - 3m. under ideal conditions. Many specimens will occur together as clumps or in regular patterns reflecting ground conditions or filial relationships. In assessing a cluster of specimens, i.e. 2 or 3 flowering spikes arising from the one spot we shift the hand-held device fractionally to either side of the specimens. This produces  a pattern of symbols side by side. But whether these are plants and offspring or are simply independent plants growing close together — or they could be both! i.e. plants that were once attached now living apart? With the amount of ground to survey and the number of Spiranthes we record it is very much a Click and Go policy. But it does provide an accurate overall count of numbers and is probably more accurate and efficient than other methods of recording we have seen The Sketch (RIGHT) is from the same data as used in the aerial image above it, but at a much higher resolution and with the background map removed  (as it has become too pixelated). The orientation of the sketch remains the same with the road at the top and the lake at the bottom left. Initially this was done to check for duplicates as the data was recorded on 2 dates.. The small Green Dots are from the 5th August and the Miniature Trees are from the 18th of July. No records have been removed as there is no evidence of duplication with the differing symbols never intermingled.. It is interesting to see that the later records are at the top of the sketch, i.e. further from the shore!

L A K E

C A R  P A R K

5th August records…
18th July records…
LEFT Checking known plants. Fortunately, the trees and certain boulders underfoot enabled Frances to find several Spiranthes under water… This photo was taken from the west looking across the orchid bed with the Car Park to the left.
ABOVE Standing on a stone Picnic Table looking south across the main orchid site towards a rough looking L. Cullin. The few rocks emerging from the water in the middle distance mark the edge of the shore though the water level often withdraws a good deal further in fine weather. The presence of foam is somewhat concerning though not a risk to Spiranthes. Normally the quality of water in these lakes is good with foam rare and cyanophyceae blooms rarely seen. Today’s foam is probably a result of much rain washing streams and yards clean and depositing any surfactants into the lake.

Count Checking and

Distribution Analysis

Good News and Hope…

Not only did one of the workers on the Wild West project don a pair of flip flops and braved the cold water, the same person then collected a damaged flower* and examined it microscopically. LEFT:  The umbrella marks the site of the 2 tall flowering specimens previously recorded. We obtained a damaged flower (totally non-viable) and…

There are seeds!

We have been monitoring numerous Spiranthes flowers and taking photographs of swollen ovaries, etc, to determine if seeds are developing in the flowering spikes. In the last couple of trips there have been indications that this is occurring; today we got the proof RIGHT First photograph of this year showing a well developed seed with nucleus. This seed might well have been viable if it had not been broken off by waves and if the seed was not saturated over a long period in cold water.

The good News.

It is possible the high water level at this time could open up a whole new range of locations 60cm. above the current seeding zone. Many years ago in Lough Allen (Co. Leitrim) after studying shoreline specimens for a couple of years we were surprised to find 4 healthy plants in high grass 60cm. above normal level. These could have been the result of shoreline plants seeding and the water level rising? These plants persisted for several years. Perhaps if there are viable seeds in the water and if they land in higher ground, we may have a whole new crop on higher parts of Conn and Cullin’s  shores?
* NOTE: In Ireland S. romanzoffiana  is strictly protected by law and it is not permissible to harm the plants or damage their habitat. So please don’t pick these flowers. The one we took had not possibility of recovering.!
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RIGHT Looking west from the Car Park. This flooded area is occupied by the large group of Spiranthes. The plants are now under 50 to 80 cms of water, but there was little movement at the bottom of the water which might reduce further damage.
September 21st
L. Cullin Car Park No. 1 & Derrin Bay, L. Conn Massbrook & Lower West shore Slight abatement of Autumnal flooding

Surviving underwater!

Today we made a visit to well known old sites after a drop in Water Levels following on research at the height of the flood reported ABOVE. We have been avidly following the changing water levels in both Lakes. Thankfully this is all available online and we can combine it with our own information to say when and whether various orchid populations will be drowned, flooded or (perhaps) OK! Unfortunately none of the orchids this years were immune to flooding. The highest site known, also with the largest specimens seen, was an established rocky and sandy island with much scrub on it, in the middle of Derrin Bay close to  where a group of 4 large Spiranthes clones survived for many years up until last year… only one left this year.

The highest site.

Here several plants were recorded, now almost totally emerged from the flood though the sandy bay was still well covered. We estimate that the very tip of some of these specimens avoided the worst flood damage and the area is also well protected from wave action by boulders and scrub. Surviving Flowerheads RIGHT There were c. 20 specimens in this small area but many were low down. The specimens shown here are those we think most likely to have retained some seed intact and which could, potentially, mature and release viable seed depending on the weather to come in the next few weeks.

Best surviving orchids on raised island in Derrin Bay, NE Cullin

BOTH these specimens occurred together on the safest part of this small island.. This traditionally has provided the most dramatic plants in L. Cullin area. It is a small plot with a path crossing it from one bay to the next. Growth of Alders, Birch, and Myrtle are colonising a stony promontory extending from the lake shore out to this island into what was recently open water. These two have stout stems, upright, large flower heads and some signs of viability. All this reflects their raised site with shelter from wave action.

Car Park site at L. Cullin.

This is one of the densest populations of S. romanzoffiana in the Cullin/Conn complex. There are approximately 45 specimens confined to a small garden type plot between the car park and the beach. Plants grew here in two phases with July plants emerging close to the water and August plants, being bigger,tending to occur at the back of the shore — implying that these were mature plants of 2 or more years of age. Two of the larger specimens survived well and these are reproduced below. Both of these were inundated at the height of the flood; they were checked and found with the tip of their flowers roughly 15 - 20cm underwater. Spiranthes will survive well underwater; we have seen many instances of the plants emerging underwater and even starting to flower before they reach the surface of the water. Strange! This years we have been able to see that the destruction of plants results from wave action rather than mere flooding. These two specimens still have sturdy stems and  seed-head. Indeed the one on the LEFT may yet release seed.

Comments re. water levels.

The two water stations are close to one another but on either side of the isthmus separating L. Cullin from L. Conn. The only connection between the two lakes is the narrow, deep, channel under Pontoon Bridge. As a result the water levels (in metres above Datum at Poolbeg, Dublin) are consistently lower in the southern lake (L. Cullin) and significant eddies can be seen as water surges southwards through Pontoon Bridge. It is easy to confuse these lakes but using the wrong data may lead to the disappointment of finding orchids buried under water. When water levels are low the difference between the 2 lakes is less, i.e. 0.048m. on August 4th. Whereas with flood conditions it can be 0.067m. (September 3rd.) or 0.126m. on September 21st. RIGHT This specimen  was found in a narrow reed fringed channel close to the back of the shore at Derrin Bay. The shore nearby is lined with massive smooth  exposed bedrock preventing further movement inland by waves or high water. It is the last suitable area for Spiranthes and normally only a handful are found along this rocky backwater. This specimen was clearly flooded by the highest tide  but remains intact with a sturdy stem and some flowers at the tip. This highlights the fact the flooding is not fatal but washing in, and back-flow out, by waves driven by strong wind on exposed shores.. This shore has many more islands and reed beds before the open water is reached.
Water Levelsat BOTHlakes… Conn is the upper lake and water flows from there into Cullin and then to the sea.                           L. Conn OD   Conn change   L. Cullin OD  Cullin changeJuly 4	11.194m.	0.051m.	11.133m.	0.040m.July 18 BASE pt.	11.143m.	     0	11.093m.	     0August 4	11.197m.	0.054m. 	11.149m.	0.056m.August 11	11.368m.	0.225m.	11.324m.	0.231m.August 18	11.485m.	0.342m.	11.338m.	0.245m.August 25	11.596m.	0.453m.	11.498m.	0.405m.September 3	12.304m.	1.161m.	12.237m.	1.144m.September 21	11.854m.	0.711m.	11.728m.	0.635m. CHANGE levels relative to BASE point = 0.    GREEN: Level Dropping     /      RED: Rising Level
BELOW: High exposure at the west middle shore of L. Conn facing directly into strong wave action when visited. The outer row of bushes was the primary settlement of specimens; the closer bushes sheltered later specimens, and the rocks were dry land!
ABOVE Two of the largest specimens to grow at the Car Park this year. Before the flood came these were stunning specimens already starting to develop seeds in their swollen ovaries. The plants have been much battered, as indicated by the twisted stem and the thinning of what was a very strong stem (Right). Continuous wave action causes this effect but the plants remain vigourous enough to resume growth. Some seeds were evident but small and saturated.

Degree of Exposure at various sites.

Three sites were visited today. Approximately half the known population were extant at the Car Park site. The site was still exposed and suffering the effects of a stiff NE wind. This site faces South East but the waves were still coming around the corner. In our previous day’s work these plants were identified underwater and were suffering less battering on that calmer day. We were pleased that so many Spiranthes survived and there may have been some possibility of seed release if water levels had  continued to drop. But, at time of writing (29th Sept) this seems NOT the case. The second site visited was Massbrook Harbour and associated stony beach to the west of the bay. 1 specimen was seen at the harbour but in a largely destroyed state. Many of the 30 or so boats beached here had also drifted and beached elsewhere — an indication of the severity of the flooding and associated wind. The beach was visited as there are many specimens scattered along the normal shoreline but the back of the shore in one area has a stretch of storm beach far above the normal level and anchored by Alders. A few Spiranthes grow here. Today all this area was still flooded, to our surprise. The final site visited was the Lower West Shore (L. Conn). None were found here today. Image RIGHT shows the process of waves and water surging out which flattened all grassy areas at the back of the shore and would have, presumably, broken and removed the large population or orchids that had been establishing themselves here. But existing roots and new plants may well replace this population next year!

The difference

between Marsh

Orchids and S.

romanzoffiana?

During today’s work we were struck by the difference between Marsh Orchids and Spiranthes, growing in the same place! The Marsh Orchids flower earlier but mature at the same time as Spiranthes. These two pictures show how sturdy and water resistant the Marsh orchid flowers and seeds are. Despite being flooded for the same length of time the Marsh Orchid seed pods remain strong and secure. On opening the seeds seem mature and dry, maybe waiting for warm weather to burst and disperse!

Is S. romanzoffiana adapted to this climate?

It is, of course a North American species and not many orchids have an existence on both sides of the North Atlantic. In some ways the occurrence of Spiranthes on both continents is similar. e.g. the wet misty Canadian province of Labrador and Newfoundland has many similarities to the West of Ireland. But this species also occurs high in mountains in many areas of the USA, like Alaska, California and new England. They occur there and thrive there in large bunches sometimes away from water. (See our Report from 2017 which shows examples of these Habitats.) In Ireland and Britain the species is reserved to waterside habitats. The answer must be a difference of climates and extended seasons. The dry light seeds released in America settle in dry soil with healthy mycorrhiza near to the parent plants. In Ireland there is little source of local seed so we must rely on seed blown over from America in huge quantity managing to land on water and then germinate on lake shores? So Spiranthes is not adapted to our Summers but survives on the basis of seed imported from North America in such quantities that some survive to produce viable plants in certain specific locations that are different from those in the natural habitat of this species, i.e. North America.

No… but could it be?

Irish Lady’s Tresses are not natural plants of this area, but neither are they invasive species, just regular migrants that sometimes survive on our shores. Stabilising this population can probably be advanced by permanently protecting mature plants from grazing and habitat destruction and possibly by a process of encouraging them to grow in places slightly above flood levels. But it is the rain and the wind and the floods that brings the initial colonising seed into this country? It would be very interesting to establish a Conservation Site for this species that would protect establish plants permanently and facilitate local dispersal of seed as well as vegetative reproduction via lateral buds. It would be a long term project but it seems certain that, if a secure zone surrounding mature plants could be guaranteed, then maybe lateral budding might lead to a sustained and expanding population. BUT much work would need to be done on how to maintain land with a low level of competing vegetation without cutting! This seems much more complicated than the earlier policy of keeping cattle off designated sites from June onwards; we now know that that is much too late and any grazing at any time may not be ideal for Spiranthes?

30th September 2019

This seems very much the end of a campaign. A campaign with many gains and new insights but also some disappointments tempered with a mixture of great weather and then saddened by our Irish Weather returning to form. We will be ending our research here — unless something very surprising happens!
Data thanks to the Office of Public Works Corryosla and Pontoon gauges. …     www.waterlevel.ie
How do Orchids and different species of orchids survive flooding and wave disturbance at Sites with different levels of exposure! + + +

Conclusion, Conservation and New Plans

To see…

Numbers and Distribution Map

Terrybaun Beauty

Comments and ideas for Conservation of this species in

the West.

GoTO:       www.wildwest.ie/spiranthescount2019.html We have had to divide this page, reluctantly, pending sorting out some technical problems. But it may advantageous to have the field work and the analysis kept separate — one is factual, the other is theory and dependent on much effort and commitment to make it come true. Bit it would be nice to see The Two Lakes hosting the greatest collection of Spiranthes romanzoffiana  in Europe!