The Consolation of Wildflowers!

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.

Bog orchid (5)
The tiny Bog Orchid in the company of Round-leaved Sundews. Compare its size with the blades of grass around it.

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)

John's Hill View (5)
On John’s Hill, Bunclody, Co. Carlow

John's Hill View (1)

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!

Peacock butterfly (5)
Peacock (above) and Fritillary butterflies entertained us on our walk through the forestry plantation.

Fritillary butterfly (6)

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:

Achillea millefolium Yarrow (4)
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Centaurea nigra Common Knapweed (1)
Centaurea nigra Common Knapweed
Centaurea scabiosa Greater Knapweed (2)
Centaurea scabiosa Greater Knapweed
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury (2)
Centaurium erythraea Common Centaury
Circium vulgare Spear Thistle with bumble bee
Circium vulgare Spear Thistle with bumble bee
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove (2)
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove
Erica tetralix Cross-leaved Heath (2)
Erica tetralix Cross-leaved Heath
Eriophorum angustifolium Bog Cotton Cotton Grass
Eriophorum angustifolium Bog Cotton or Cotton Grass
Eupatorium cannibum Hemp Agrimony (2)
Eupatorium cannibum Hemp Agrimony
Jasione montana Sheep's-bit (1)
Jasione montana Sheep’s-bit
Narthecium ossifragum Bog Asphodel (1)
Narthecium ossifragum Bog Asphodel
Pinguicula lusitanica Pale Butterwort (1)
Pinguicula lusitanica Pale Butterwort, a very dainty flower of the bog.
Senecio jacobaea Common Ragwort (2)
Senecio jacobaea Common Ragwort
Stachys sylvatica Hedge Woundwort (1)
Stachys sylvatica Hedge Woundwort
Leucanthemum vulgare Oxeye Daisy
Leucanthemum vulgare Oxeye Daisy






9 thoughts on “The Consolation of Wildflowers!

    1. Bog Cotton can be very impressive when seen in large numbers. It is a small plant, less than 30cm high, but the clean white colour catches the eye.

      Liked by 1 person

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