There was a report on Facebook last week of a finding of one of our more uncommon native orchids. Hammarbya paludosa, Bog orchid, had been found on John’s Hill, outside Bunclody, Co. Carlow for the first time since it was last recorded in 1990. It is a tiny orchid which requires very specific conditions – boggy conditions where it grows standing in very slow-moving water, often in the company of Round-leaved Sundews.
At the best of times it is a difficult orchid to find, so searching out two specimens on a large hillside was going to be a challenge. We had been sent co-ordinates which was a huge help but, we knew, gave no guarantee of success. There was a thirty-minute walk through forestry before getting to the open landscape of John’s Hill and another thirty minutes with ‘phone in hand, Google Maps open, before reaching the marked spot. The conditions were perfect, an open area with a seeping of water, a bare movement, and the tell-tale companion plant, Sundew. Nearly two hours of standing and gazing, of rechecking our location, of widening the search, or returning to the first spot again and again left us defeated. The Bog Orchid had eluded us. (We know we can see it at a location near Dublin but it would have been good to have it nearer home)
So, we faced into the trek back to the car – almost an hour of a walk, initially over the rough ground of the hillside, rocky and boggy, and then down along the rough track of the forestry plantation. We compared notes on how our hips felt after all this rough trekking; consoled each other on the passing of the years and the decline of the body and looked forward to the sandwiches and coffee which awaited us – we come prepared!
However, we were not so disappointed that we couldn’t enjoy the many beautiful wildflowers – and butterflies – we encountered on our walk back to the car, some on the hillside and in the bog with others on the verges of the forest track. There were stretches of thistle and ragwort which were simply glorious but we wondered if anybody would plant these as part of the nowadays so very popular wildflower plantings. No, people generally prefer the pretty poppies and cornflowers to what nature provides! As we walked, we noted that the butterflies were certainly delighted with these thistles and ragworts and if we were to be truly honest and genuine in our plantings of wildflowers, we should suit wildlife rather than our own aesthetics. However, that’s a discussion for another occasion and for today we will simply enjoy what nature provided for us.
Here is a selection: