With its beautifully arranged spike of creamy white flowers, arranged in a small spiral atop an erect pale green stem, Irish lady's tresses is a joy to come across. In July and August, these little members of the Orchidaceae family bear their distinctive flowers in short rows which curl closely around the stalk, each flower backed by a sharply pointed sheath. The leaves of this plant are linear-lanceolate and it has a few stem leaves. A plant which grows to about 30cm high, often with its feet in water, it is a native plant which is generally found infrequently in the west Ireland.
I recorded and photographed this plant growing at the margins of Lough Mask, Co Mayo in 2009. It was as a result of the kindness of Sorcha Pierce of Grasshopper Cottage* who told me about its location. *www.troutfishingireland.com
If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre
This species is protected under the Flora (Protection) Order, 2015 and is classed as NEAR THREATENED in the Red Data List of Vascular Plants 2016. It is also assessed as NEAR THREATENED on European and Global Red Lists.
It is also a species for which Ireland holds or possibly holds more than 25% of the European population (Ireland Red List No. 10 Vascular Plants).
To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'.
Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on Gill Books - Nature - Ireland's Wild Orchids