14. A strange Orchid?
19th. July 2011
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Rare.......only one found.....very small.....delicate and attractive.

Under Review:

This is a mystery Orchid which has puzzled the Experts. Various suggestions have been made as to what it may be!

We knew there were anomalies but we studied the Books and checked the anatomy and it is clearly not one of the regular species. It has been suggested to us that this could be a Hybrid or that it is unusual/semi-developed/mutated plant of the common-spotted orchid?

Here’s hoping it will re-emerge again next year.
(D. Farrell, LAB, 12th October 2011)


Location:  Annagh Lake, Lough Allen.




Interesting Discovery.

The picture on the left is of a small white orchid, which was found on the shore of Annagh Lake in the north east corner of Lough Allen. This is part of Lough Allen but its entrance has become blocked by reeds and other plants; the water level here is often somewhat higher than Lough Allen. This orchid is smaller than the Common Orchid and was found growing alongside it at the base of a ditch.

Spirathes romanzoffiana was also growing in the immediate vicinity. We have now been assured that this is most likely to be a hybrid or a variant and distinguished botanists advising point to the similarity of the flower with the flowers of Helleborines (Cephalanthera longifolia) — but the leaves are wrong... and it doesn’t have a spur!

A confusing Orchid!

The picture to the right is a close up picture of the orchid’s flowering head. The colour of the petals of each flower is clearly illustrated in this picture.

The flowers are mainly white but they have a pale pink colour running through them. They have large spurs proturding from the base of the flowers.

Some of the flowers have turned brown and withered indicating that this is a mature spike. The flowers at the top of the plant are still in pristine condition and show the unique shape of this plant. They are pointing strongly upwards — a feature of the Narrow-leaved Helleborine.

This was a slim plant but small, only around 20 - 25cm in height. 


This may not be a hybrid and may just be a mutation of the Common Orchid, though it is very different in appearance and structure to that  flower! Hybrids are plants produced from fertilisation between two different species.

In the immediate vicinity the only other species seen were Common Spotted Orchids and Irish Lady’s Tresses.

The Answer?

Many distinguised botanists have looked at these images (though not the live plant) and cannot definitively explain it. We will know for sure if this plant re-emerges again next year. This is a possibilty as we know the precise location and orchids are long-lived plants.

Keep our fingers crossed, eh?

What is the significance of this find?

This is probably the least common orchid we have found around Lough Allen, be it a mutation or a hybrid, or whatever. We have seen nothing else like it and congratulations to our Work Experience Student for finding it.

If you have come across other instants of specimens like this (have to be next year at this stage) we would appreciate the information. (Contact us HERE.)

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Cephalanthera and Spiranthes romanzoffiana...

There is no particular link (that we know) between these two species. However, we were out checking the Irish Lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana), which also grow at this location, when Emma came across this specimen.

It was quite easy to overlook, had a very short flowering spell, and occured under bushes and among Common Orchids.

The Spiranthes (in Ireland) is definitely totally associated with lake shorelines and typically occurs within a height band from the average waterline of up to 80 cms .

IDENTIFICATION: The picture on the Left shows the spur, blunt and pointing downwards, about half as long as the Ovary (the green structure above it). That and the size and the long thin stem with thin scaley leaves sheathing it at the top and a ring of much broader leaves at the base — are salient features of this plant?


Pattern of Occurence of these Species

The place where this specimen was found is the typical situation ascribed to Spiranthes romanzoffiana.

The Narrow-leaved Helleborine has not been seen but on the west shore of Annagh Lake, between it and the main part of Lough Allen, is a wooded peninsula which might be suitable to the Narrow-leaved Helleborine.


Page updated in haste.

Further reports to come.

Many thanks to all advisors...





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