Irish lady’s-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana

Status Amber - Vulnerable and Near-Threatened
Best Time to See August
Habitat Grassland

This beautiful small wild orchid has small creamy-white flowers coiling in three spirals up the stem. Each flower is in a dense spike, and the sepals and petals are united to form a lip of a tube. The lower petal of the flower is white with green veins. It has leafy stems and lanceolate leaves.


It grows in marshy grasslands in the west of Britain and Ireland, which are either grazed, flooded or cut.

Its stronghold in the UK is in north-west Scotland, although it is also recorded in Devon, where it has not been seen for several years, and sites in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

From about 70 sites in the 1980s, it is now down to only about 11. The number of plants at each site can vary from one year to the next, with some plants remaining underground in some years.

It does not grow at all in the rest of Europe but is widespread in North America.


Wet grassy places such as marshy meadows.

Key threats

It has always been rare, and is probably mainly threatened by the use of fertilisers and herbicides on land nearby and changes in grazing patterns.

What we’re doing about it

Until recently, Irish lady's-tresses was thought to be closely associated with lazy beds (a system of digging linear beds to grow crops in western Scotland).

Plantlife has therefore commissioned a short research project to investigate how land where this orchid grows today was managed in the past. In addition, little is known of its ecology and reproductive biology and Plantlife is working closely with scientists to find out more about how this beautiful orchid reproduces.