You Little Beauty!

I was a small child, always the youngest and smallest in class in my school days, and one teacher constantly sought to console and encourage me by telling me that the best goods came in small parcels. There may be a nugget of truth in the saying and we certainly delight especially in beauty in small things.

Orchids are generally fascinating with interesting structure and colourings but, to quote from Anne and Simon Harrap’s “Orchids of Britain and Ireland”, “This tiny green orchid is the exact opposite of the classic big, bright and blousy hothouse hybrids. Indeed, it is the smallest orchid in the British Isles and one of the hardest to find. But, despite its rather dull flowers and diminutive stature (or perhaps because of these), it holds a particular fascination for botanists and is always a delight to see.”

Bog orchid (7)
A photograph which illustrates the environment in which the Bog orchid, Hammarbya paludosa, grows. As the name suggests, it grows in bogs but only where there is a constant trickle of water, a place where sphragnum moss and sundew are found. You should see three orchids in this photograph – no bigger than a blade of grass. 

Last week, circumstances gave me the opportunity to visit one of the very few known sites for the Bog Orchid in Ireland. It was in the Dublin Mountains, a two-hour drive from home, and though I had coordinates to get me to the location and clear directions of where to find them once on site, I was still without any great confidence of finding them bearing in mind the comments from the Harraps: “This tiny green plant is one of the hardest British orchids to find. It is so inconspicuous that it is easy to tread on it unawares, and the pseudobulbs, often only half-buried in the moss, can easily be dislodged. All in all, it is best not to look for it until you are an experienced orchid hunter.Hardly encouraging!

Bog orchid (5)
An exceptional group of the Bog orchid and there were at least two more as I can see two pseudobulbs without flowering stalks in the centre of the group. 
Bog orchid (1)
An especially “large” specimen of Bog orchid at approximately ten centimetres high! 
Bog orchid (2)
A close look at the basal leaves of the Bog orchid showing the bulbils which form on the edges of the leaves. As you can imagine they are absolutely tiny. 
Bog orchid (4)
The base of a plant showing the pseudobulb and the bulbils on the edges of the basal leaves. 

However, fortune smiled on me – the directions were precise and accurate – and I came on the first specimen within minutes and there is a well-known phenomenon which orchid searchers know well that once you find the first, your eye becomes attuned and you find others with greater ease afterwards. These bog orchids are no taller nor wider than a blade of grass but they have a light yellowish-green colour which catches the eye so one gradually sees more and more of them – with patient looking, for one noticed within a square foot may lead to several others being noticed with patient examination of the spot.

A close-up of an individual flower to show the detail and wonderful design in such a tiny little thing. 

I returned to this location today with two friends for it’s always more enjoyable to view these beauties in good company.

Bog orchid (8)
These orchids demand close scrutiny not only to enjoy the detail of their beauty but simply to find them! 



11 thoughts on “You Little Beauty!

  1. Smallest youngest and brightest! Your teacher was wise. I really enjoyed this as the enthusiasm just bursts out. I can identify with it as every time I see a lovely block of real stone my heart does a wee somersault!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can imagine how exciting a find those orchids were. You are fortunate to have friends who are enthusiastic enough to accompany you on a second trip to see them. A lovely piece, Paddy.

    Liked by 1 person

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