Kildare Wildlife Watch: the orchid that thrives in dry areas of Lullymore Bog

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Nuala Madigan of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council


Nuala Madigan of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council


Kildare Wildlife Watch: the orchid that thrives in dry areas of Lullymore Bog

This week, let’s look at another orchid now in bloom on Lullymore West Bog — the common fragrant orchid (Lus taghla as Gaeilge).

This orchid can be found on dry meadows and sand dunes. You may be thinking that Lullymore West is neither, as it is an abandonded cutaway peatland, and when we consider peatlands they are wet rather than dry.

However, in the case of Lullymore West the key word is ‘cutaway’, meaning that drains were opened and peat was extracted from the site. Today it is considerably drier than it once was and the pH is no longer acidic, but alkaline allowing a variety of species to colonise the site, including common fragrant orchid.

This orchid can reach a height of up to 45cm. The pink-to-deep-purple, sweetly scented flowers are supported by a stem and are arranged in a spire at the top of this.

Another orchid that can be confused with this particular one is dense-flowered fragrant orchid, but as the name suggests on the latter, the flowers are tightly packed together compared to common fragrant orchid.

Similar to the common spotted orchid, which we looked at last week, the sepal (the leaf-like sheet that protects the flower when in bud) can again be confused for a petal as they are the same colour.

In the case of common fragrant orchid, the upper sepal and upper petal meet to create a hood. The lower petal is lipped, similar to common spotted orchid. This lipped petal is designed as a landing pad for pollinators.

To support you in identifying a common fragrant orchid, notice that the lipped lower petal has three lobes, all of which are of similar size.

The green leaves of common fragrant orchid are located at the base of the plant and are short. In the case of this species, you may identify a few leaves also extended along the stem.

Common fragrant orchid will be in bloom until the end of July, so take time to try and identify this pretty native wildflower in your community.

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If you would like help identifying or to learn more about a wildlife species contact me via e-mail