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11th June 2019 at 6:19 pm #2560Irish Orchid SocietyKeymaster
Yesterday evening I walked the North Bull island in both directions from the Visitor Centre. The first walk was northwards to the beginning of the alder marsh. There were a few bee orchids (Ophrys apifera) along the path and plenty of early marsh orchid in its dune form (Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. coccinea) , brick red flowers with a folded back lip. Most of these were small plants but occasionally a robust individual appeared. On this route they grow side-by-side with the Northern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella) easily identified by the deep purple colour of the flowers. Spikes with most of their flowers open tend to have a flat top to the spike. Scattered among these species are some hybrids, identifiable by their pale pink flowers, large side lobes to the lip and the lip also having a central tooth. The pale colour and central tooth are traits inherited from one parent, the common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) which has yet to come into flower on the Bull Island. Some of the hybrids have marked foliage, another trait inherited from the common spotted orchid. Dotted among these were plenty of common twayblade (Neottia ovata), well worth a thorough investigation as the flowers are remarkable in close-up.
Walking south from the Visitor Centre towards the old abandoned toilet block there is a large slack (the low area between two dunes which is often flooded for months during the winter period). Here, the microhabitats of the island can be observed by the position and presence of certain species. Contrary to the northern walk the dune slack only has a few specimens of Northern marsh orchid and swathes of early marsh orchid.
If you can get there now, especially on a beautiful sunny evening your efforts may be rewarded by the sight of a bee orchid but will definitely be rewarded by the others mentioned above. On both walks, the unfolding leaves of marsh helleborines could be counted in their thousands (if one was so inclined) so there is plenty more on the way in the coming months. Enjoy!
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