Flowers Off The Fairway
‘Oh I’ve seen those in the Burren’, is a common and correct comment about links ﬂowers. Despite the obvious diﬀerence of location between a sandy and a rocky place, both are lime-rich, well drained and largely unfertilised: the ﬂora is thus similar. Grasses such as vernal, meadow grass, quaking grass etc. are common to both places. Many attractive herbs like hawkweed, eyebright, yellow rattle, wild pea and herb robert add colour to the connection. There are of course more robust species – hogweed, plantain, thistle, wild carrot – typical of meadowland anywhere but as important providers of seed to ﬂocks of winter ﬁnches they should not be disdained as mere weeds. Here and there scarce plants like the little yellow dune pansy brighten the dune slopes.
Most captivating of all are the orchids. A succession of these ‘dune jewels’, spangle the links with colour throughout the summer. Spikes of the early purple orchid, the ﬁrst to ﬂower, are on show by late April. The pink spotted orchid and the ruby-coloured pyramidal follow in May and June. Look out for the deep crimson marsh orchid in the damper hollows. The orchid acme, however, is the bee orchid. This little plant with ﬂower-heads resembling bees has fooled insects into mating with it, thus helping it to reproduce! June and July are the months to look out for this elusive exotic. At least ﬁlthy species of wild ﬂower are found in the rough – oﬀ the fairway – and there may well be others as yet undiscovered.