Once upon a time I thought that orchids were tender tropical plants with exotic flowers; the sort of thing that you could see in hothouses or in that beautiful collection in Jersey. Then a few years ago, much to my surprise, I found the permanent meadowland around my home in Sliabh Mannan full of strange plants.
I tentatively identified the more common of these (left), from a guide book, as the common spotted orchid (dactylorhiza fuchsii), though to my way of thinking that was a serious misnomer since I had never spotted it before. It turned out that the name signified the presence of dark spots on the leaves and spotted patterns on the mauve flowers.
Considerably less common was a much darker purple flower (right) that I thought was probably the early marsh orchid (dactylorhiza incarnata). I claim no great conviction behind these identifications, so if you know better please feel free to let me know. There is a variety known as heath spotted and another called northern marsh that look superficially very similar.
The new flowers were attended by a locally new species of butterfly, the common blue, as reported in an earlier post (28 October 2013) of this blog.
For the next few years a few stunted specimens appeared erratically. This month however the meadows are once again full of these beautiful wild flowers. I suspect the mild winter has encouraged them, as it has so many tender plants.
Remarkably the magnolia in my garden flowered this year for the first time since I planted it, although I bought it years ago as a sapling already in flower.