Autumn Lady’s-tresses

Common name:
Autumn Lady’s-tresses
Spiranthes spiralis
Cúilin Muire
Flowering period:
Calcareous grasslands and heaths, coastal grasslands with short turf
Conservation Status:
Classed as NEAR THREATENED in the Red Data List of Vascular Plants 2016

Wonderful spiral flowers of the rare orchid Autumn Lady’s -tresses in bloom at present in the Burren National Park, Co Clare and on the Aran Islands, Co Galway.

Short description:
Beautiful orchid with small tubular ice -white flowers which are spirally arranged on twisted leafless spikes, delicately scented. Leaves oval, grey-green, forming a rosette beside the stem base.

Noteworthy characteristics:
Wonderful autumnal orchid, easily overlooked due to its small size and greenish-white colour.  Its small white flowers are very beautiful and  closer observation (hand lens) reveals  delicate frilly edges which sparkle like tiny crystals.

Uses and other points of interest:
There are no recorded uses for this wild orchid in Ireland. It takes its common name from the resemblance of the flower arrangement along the stem to braided hair. If conditions are right hundreds of flowering spikes can appear in a good season.

Personal note:
This is a truly beautiful orchid and one that I look forward to seeing every Autumn in the Burren  and  on Inis Oírr . This year (2023) I found new sites for this wild orchid in  the Burren and on the Aran Islands where  in places I recorded hundreds of specimens.  With its delicate scent, tiny structure and intriguing beauty it never fails to delight.


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