Orchid, Bird's-nest

Information on Bird's-nest Orchid

Common Name: Bird's-nest Orchid
Scientific Name: Neottia nidus-avis
Irish Name: Magairlín neide éin
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Bird's-nest Orchid is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.

Under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985, fifty-six species of wild plants are given some measure of protection.  Among these is Neottia nidus-avis. This strange, brownish-yellow plant,  lacks chlorophyll and obtains all of its food as a parasite on fungal growths.  Its honey-brown flowers (10mm) which appear from May to July, have a 2-lobed lip and hood and a sickly scent. This plant grows to 35cm and is usually found in woodland; instead of leaves there are scale-like bracts on the stem. It was classed as 'rare' in Webbs 'An Irish Flora' of 1977. This native plant belongs to the family Orchidaceae.  

I first identified this flower growing in the shade in a beautiful beech wood in the Dolomites in Italy and I photographed it there in 1995 (the lowest image on page 2). For many years I hunted for it in Ireland - Coole Park was one location I visited repeatedly but to no avail - and several others. And then I was very lucky. Through the good services of Laurence May, Editor of 'Pollinia', the newsletter of the Irish Orchid Society, I was introduced to Ulli Peiller and Howard and Peg Frost. Ulli arranged for us all to meet up and those three lovely people brought me and Pete to see the Bird's-nest Orchid at Lough Key. It was such a great day and the knowledge of those orchid-lovers, so generously given, has given us our best memory of our summer 2013. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

For more information on Irish Orchids, there is a wonderful book entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. Beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and with carefully-chosen words from orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers, this superb book is published by the Collins Press. Susan's splendid 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


Nine years underground
Garnering from mould;
Nine autumns' windfalls
Blanket out the cold.
Dews of nine summers
Between the sods seep;
Nine spring awakenings
Leave her still asleep.

Then she will awake
Deep within the shade,
Beneath the green beech,
Never in the glade.
Upon a single stem
Away from human eye
Brown flowers open
Inviting the fly,

Except when the root
Unawares has grown
Twining her tangles
Underneath a stone.
She cannot break through;
She cannot grow around:
Then shall Neottia
Flower underground.

Bird's Nest Orchid  :  Giles Watson   :   2005 
follow link to Poems on Flowering Plants.

Orchid, Bird's-nest
Orchid, Bird's-nest