That’s Not Waste Ground!

A factory close to us was demolished some years back with the intention that the area would be redeveloped. Then came the economic recession and the redevelopment – grand hotel, leisure facilities etc – never arrived and the areas was simply left to nature – waste ground?

Nature abhors a vacuum – so said Aristotle though in a context quite different to the grounds of a former iron foundry – and wildflowers slowly but surely began to occupy the site. It was quite a challenging one for any plant given the amount of concrete which was simply pulverised and spread on the site. However, year after year, the wildflowers gained further foothold and the area without growth has shrunk. The list of occupants is more than I wish to write here but one has especially delighted me – the Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera.

Although it is widespread across the country it is still relatively rare and it is still a thrill to come on such a beautiful and appealing plant. I dropped in for a visit to this site this evening, a quick visit, and I certainly didn’t scour the area in a style where I could say I had scanned for all the Bee orchids there but I found well in excel of sixty in less than half the area and have every reason that there are far more to be found and enjoyed.

It is a feature of Bee orchids that they make an out of the blue appearance in an area where they have not grown previously. It is, to me at least, inexplicable how they appear in big numbers when none at all have been recorded previously in the area. Unfortunately, another of their features is that they can vanish from an area – though they generally reappear within a few years again.

For the moment, I am happy to enjoy them while they are here for this is not waste ground but the location of some of our most beautiful wildflowers.

Click on the first photograph to see all in larger format as a slideshow:

12 thoughts on “That’s Not Waste Ground!

  1. I had the opposite experience yesterday. Despite my pleadings not to cut the grass, my bee orchid site (a graveyard) had been mowed and I couldn’t find a single one. Could have wept.

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    1. A graveyard in Co. Wexford which has a small population of the rarer Green-winged orchid was mown early this year but a number survived. It is an unused graveyard yet there is a huge reluctance for any sort of engagement on the issue. A local enthusiast has approached the rector but will little reaction or any indication of cooperation.


  2. Hello Paddy,
    Stunning photos, and like you I absolutely love bee orchids, and wish that we could get them going here, but if my memory serves me correctly they’re lime lovers, or at least not so keen on acidic conditions, so I guess the smashed concrete will help.
    As to how they got there… “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”… though the REALLY clever bit is the fungi which preceded them. On this front, I’m about to post a review of Merlin Sheldrake’s recent book,” Entangled Life”, which should blow the minds of anyone, (and more especially gardeners – myself included), who’ve largely ignored this critical, fungi, kingdom of life on earth, in their endeavours with growing plants for people.
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, movement on the wind is the explanation and it still fascinates me how they can spread so well and establish so rapidly and in such numbers when a space is left undisturbed for them.

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  3. It’s getting to the point I wished I were an Orchid enthusiast, Paddy. That’s an interesting read, and your photos are super. Beir bua!
    I suppose something similar would have occurred at Quigley Mag, except that it was grassed over for caddy-carriers?

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    1. I’m sure it would have. There are bee orchids, pyramidal orchids and, I think Common Spotted orchids on the Cunnigar – among many other interesting plants.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Seriously cool! This flower is seriously, seriously cool. Being an evolutionary biologist, these orchids are just insane to me. They don’t just look like the hind pars of a bee (male bees try to copulate with them – yeah, that’s weird but true) – in the parts of its range where it’s not self-pollinating it lures bees in by smelling like them. It has evolved a scent which is reminiscent of that of female bees – males don’t come to feed, they are tricked, they come to mate. It’s the perfect example of how plants evolve in tandem with pollinating insects. Along the lines of the more famous orchid from Madagascar – the one with the very long and protruding nectary that can only be pollinated by a particular moth with a ridiculously long tongue. No such moth had ever been seen – but Darwin realized it HAD to exist – because the flower was clearly adapted to a particular insect with an uncommonly long tongue. The moth wasn’t discovered until decades after he died. It’s a story every student of evolutionary biology has to sit through – as their professors explain the concept of co-evolution. Your orchid is another brilliantly fascinating example. So yeah, as you can tell this activated the nerd-centers in my brain :-). Made my evening to be reminded of it, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I photographed a bee orchid last week where the labellum was heavily dusted with polled – far more than could possibly have come from the flower itself – and I reckon it had attracted a male bee and the pollen had come from him.

      Liked by 1 person

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