Geopark rarity brings me to my knees.
In order to appreciate the small white orchid it is best to lie down. So, I prostrated myself before the plant. I did feel that ,despite it’s diminutive size, this orchid also has the same mystical enchantments as the bigger, showier, members of the tribe. It has a very limited distribution in Ireland and where it does survive it only occurs in low numbers. Added to this is the uncertainty, each June of just whether the plant will reappear in known sites. Apparently some years it lies dormant. So with these enigmatic qualities it is not surprising that this wee orchid is on the Irish Red data list of very rare and endangered plants.
Andy King, geopark guide, and Dowra resident, prepared and led, an orchid day event ,in Dowra on the 14th June. This included a visit to his own orchid sites. I am very grateful to Andy for the opportunity to visit this area at just the right time. Happily the weather could not have been any finer. We were able to see, heath orchids, lesser butterfly orchids early purple orchids,, common tway-blades and small white orchids. Not to be outdone by the orchids , the butterfly selection was good. We had small heath , cryptic wood-white and marsh fritillary butterfly. Pollination of the small white orchid is not well recorded but the suspicion is that micromoths do the job.
Our “Contempt for small places.”
The decline of the orchid population has been attributed to habitat loss,specifically by farm intensification and forestry. Andy King grazes his small orchid sites with two horses over the winter. Under-grazing is detrimental for the small orchids as is overgrazing. The land does not receive artificial fertilizer or herbicides. The decline in orchid populations is part of a general problem caused by the use of agricultural fertilizer. Each small place attempting to increase production and losing grassland biodiversity.
This is a big, world-wide problem, Wendell Berry describes it thus; “The health of the oceans depends on the health of the rivers; the health of the rivers depends on the health of small streams; the health of small streams depends on their watersheds. The health of the water is exactly the same as the health of the land. The health of small places is exactly the same as the health of large places.” Wendell Berry,” Contempt for small places” (2004)
Lying down in a Cavan field, admiring orchids ,gives me lots of reasons to humbly think of my own contribution to these world wide problems .