Rare Irish Orchid

Written by on 10th July 2024

A rare Irish orchid has been discovered on the lawns of Trinity College, Dublin after the university took the decision to stop mowing the grass on a number of it’s formal lawns. The orchid, a broad-leaved helleborine which was identified by Professor Jenny McElwain, has since grown to a height of over half a meter.

Usually found in woodlands, this orchid requires very specific conditions to grow, which include having the right fungal partner to germinate, which is one of the reasons that it is so rare. In Trinity, the orchid was found under a birch tree, Jenny says, “There is really complex biology happening underground. The orchid seeds may have been “lying in wait” for decades waiting but we never gave it a chance to grow because we always mowed the grass”.

Normally found growing as a single plant, three orchid plants have sprung up together since the mowing stopped which is also unusual, Jenny adds, “If we keep up that management practice, we might see more orchids next year, and hopefully  over time, we could get a really fabulous show of these rare plants”.

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