For the love of Orchids.

Today, we were really surprised when we found a beautiful common-spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuschsii). Although it is widespread throughout the UK, it was so fantastic to see one in our unmown garden, Fermanagh is fantastic for orchids as the limestone soil is perfect for their growth. We have been ‘re-wilding’ our garden to form a ‘Bee & Bee’ for bees and other pollinators. I was thrilled to see this growing and so decided to find out more things about orchids.


I found out that there are more than 25,000 species of orchid (Orchidacea) worldwide and scientists are finding more all the time, especially in the rainforests (destruction of these makes me really angry and sad!). I noticed that our orchid was beautifully symetrical, I discovered that this is called bilateral symetry, like a human face, each side is a mirror image. I think this happens in nature alot, I am really interested in the mathematical symetry in nature (another blog perhaps). Orchids actually deceive insects into pollinating them, for instance the bee orchid, actually looks like a bee in order to attract them. Amazing! I was amazed to learn that some scientists actually found 15 million year old fossilised orchid pollen on the back of a bee! Some scientists think that some orchid species date to 120 million years ago, before the continents split into their current form. Whoah!

Some rare orchids such as the Bee Orchid are protected in N.Ireland by the ‘Wildlife Order’ (N.I.). I am so grateful for legislation such as this.

I also found some peculiar and amusing things! For instance, folk believed (European Folklore) that the orchid was a symbol of fertility and love. In Ireland in Co’s. Cork and Kerry, young girls would make a powder out of the orchid roots  and give it to a boy they liked, so they would marry them. In Donegal they used the tubers to feed to the man, (the orchid has two tubers) and if the man chose the right one, he would fall in love with her, if not he’d be driven to the edge of insanity. I think this is hilarious!!  Some Eurpoeans thought that the spots on the early purple orchid were the marks of Christ’s blood as there had been an orchid growing at the foot of the cross at Calvary. In Roman Mythology orchids were said to be the food of the ‘satyrs’ (drunken woodland gods) and caused their crazy behaviour!

I love our orchid, it is so symetrical and delicate. It has so many little flowers on one stem, almost like petals. I am so glad that we are getting these little bursts of surprise in our garden. Self-heal is also growing abundantly which can be used for boils, inflammation and to treat cuts. Our ancestors have used these plants and it makes me feel more connected to the past. Gardens can be such happy places and connect us in so many ways.


I have written seven blogs now and have to say, that I have been so surprised at how people have been interacting with me. This is really amazing that people out there are actually reading about what I have to say and how my words can be read so easily, all around the world! I have had views from 10 different countries, so thank you very, very much.

I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit about orchids.





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4 Responses

  1. Dara,
    You may not remember me but I met you 6 years ago in Belfast. I have really enjoyed reading your blog. You are a fabulous writer and inspirational ecologist.

    I especially enjoyed your piece regarding bees. It is wonderful that your family is ‘growing’ their lawn. I am a bee keeper in New Zealand and I am constantly learning new things about bees and beekeeping. It is a real challenge but a rewarding past time studying and keeping bees. Urban honey can be wonderfully complex and has a distinctive floral flavour. Bees don’t survive well without a hive, so the human-bee relationship has become symbiotic. Humans provide medicine (varroa mite treatment), shelter (a hive), food (sugar water during winter when food is scarce) in exchange for (a little) honey and pollination.

    You write so well and your ideas have inspired me to get my children to study some of our unique flora and fauna in NZ.

    If you are ever in NZ please come and visit!


    1. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope the bees are doing well, sounds fantastic. Of course I remember you! I still eat with your chopsticks???? You came to see us a couple of years ago in Bellanaleck! Hope you are all well and it’s so great you want to share nature and all its joys ☺️

  2. Great stuff Dara – I never knew Orchids grew in NI. Beautiful picture tootoo! Keep up the good work.

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