Friday, 20 December 2013

Rare orchid find on tiny island

A rare species of orchid has been discovered on a remote Scottish island for the first time.

Irish ladies' tresses, which resembles plaited hair, only graces a few sites in the UK and Ireland, meaning the discovery of around 160 plants on Oronsay is a significant find.

Experts at RSPB Scotland, which manages a nature reserve there, believes the Spiranthes romanzoffiana orchids, which have a musky vanilla fragrance, were dormant underground awaiting amenable flowering conditions.

According to the press, volunteer Gill Watts, who found the orchids with her husband Richard, said: "We were actually surveying for marsh fritillary butterflies when we spotted all these white flowering spikes coming out of the ground. 

"We thought at first they might be a more common orchid, but after checking with the RSPB reserve manager, we managed to positively identify them.”

Ladies tresses, or Spiranthes, come in over 40 varieties, and are found in the Americas, Eurasia, and Australia. The genus name Spiranthes is derived from the Greek speira ("coil") and anthos ("flower"), and was inspired by the spirally arranged inflorescence.

Oronsay is a small tidal island south of Colonsay in the Scottish Inner Hebrides with an area of just over two square miles.

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