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…
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
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
Irish Lady’s Tresses
Spiranthes in bloom…
Large increase in specimens since last week!
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
Numbers present were 38 in
the Lagoon Site and 13 in
the new field Site (in
Map prepared using ExpertGPS with acknowledgements to MapBox and OpenStreetMap. Other information from WildWest.ie
Site location at north of L.
Conn looking SW to Nephin
Entrance to lagoon which, at
present, is just above lake
level. Normally in Summer
this is a broad sandy beach.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Natural changes in Spiranthes Numbers.
Why does S. romanzoffiana appear in colonies?
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:
Erosion of the exposed straight coast leading to
specimens on the shoreline being washed away.
Many specimens seen in 2017 could have been
in their first year of flowering and lacked the
nutrients to survive the following Winter.
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.
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
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
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’
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Re-count of Spiranthes numbers in Drummin*
Many more plants in some interesting niches.
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.
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
View of Car Park
No. 1 (Foxford side)
showing part of
cluster of 40 plants
in a small area
children play and
area had 10
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
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)
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Looking up from Beach
to Parking area, a
distance of c. 20m.There
are 8 - 10 orchids in this
view, though all not
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.
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.
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!
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.
The Lagoon (NE Conn) and Massbrook Fishing Harbour (S. Conn).
Disturbance and new plants at Lagoon; numerous new records from Massbrook south shore.
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
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.
Terrybaun, South Lough Conn.
New different and interesting site with many
new Spiranthes records. (46 new Specimens)
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.
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.
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
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
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
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…
Pontoon, north bay, Conn upper west
shore, and L. Cullin east shore.
Spiranthes Habitats and no-show sites. (8 new Specimens)
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
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.
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
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..
Both these areas can be
deemed barren as far as
Spiranthes goes but they are
scenic, geologically interesting,
and do have the St. Patricks
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…
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.
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!
Specimen flowering in water and a large seed-head.
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!
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]
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?
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
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
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
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.
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.
Car Park No. 1, Derrin, east L. Cullin
Return of usual Autumnal flooding
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.
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?
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…
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
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
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.
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
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.!
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
L. Cullin Car Park No. 1 & Derrin Bay, L. Conn Massbrook & Lower West shore
Slight abatement of Autumnal flooding
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
together on the
safest part of this
has provided the
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
extending from the
lake shore out to
this island into what
was recently open
These two have
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.
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.
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!
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!
Orchids and S.
During today’s work we
were struck by the
difference between Marsh
Orchids and Spiranthes,
growing in the same
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
Conclusion, Conservation and New Plans
Numbers and Distribution Map
Comments and ideas for Conservation of this species in
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!