At Rowallane Garden there is a host of native wildflowers nestling alongside trees and shrubs from around the world. The meadows come alive with the appearance of starry whites of Eyebright, Chickweeds and the pale pink spikes of the common spotted Orchid arriving on mass in July. Sometimes the soft creams of the Butterfly Orchid and the unusual green flowers of the Common Twayblade Orchids make an appearance if the conditions suit them. If you visit the Garden we could give a bit more information on these little spots of colour
Although each bloom is only 5 to 10mm in size, the Eyebright is a miniature beauty, with distinctive lobed petals and often a bright yellow centre. Its leaves are toothed. There are many individual species of Eyebright, however, due to their similarity, they are often difficult to distinguish - some even have medicinal properties. Eyebrights are semi-parasitic. By attaching themselves to the roots of other plants, they steal some of their nutrients.
This plant is an important constituent of the diet of many farmland birds. It has medicinal and therapeutic uses, is rich in vitamin C and may be eaten as a salad vegetable. It can accumulate nitrate and may become toxic to stock. Also, it has a relatively high oxalic acid content and a low level of calcium that may hurt dietary calcium bioavailability. The Greater Chickweed forms a lovely bright flower in mid -summer on a light stalk giving it the appearance of floating in the meadow.
Common Spotted Orchid
The Common Spotted Orchid is the most common of all UK orchids and the one you are most likely to see. It grows in many different habitats including woodland, roadside verges, hedgerows, old quarries, sand dunes and marshes and can be seen through our meadow; sometimes so many flowers appear together that they carpet an area with their delicate, pale pink spikes. The Common Spotted-orchid gets its name from its leaves which are green with abundant purplish oval spots. They form a rosette at ground level before the flower spike appears. The flowers range from white and pale pink through to purple but have distinctive darker pink spots and stripes on their three-lobed lips. The flowers are densely packed in short, cone-shaped clusters. The root corm contain a sap called Salep which has been used as a pick-me up tonic in certain countries to treat the very young or elderly people.
This species tolerates a remarkable range of conditions. In most remaining sites in the north, the west and the New Forest it tends to occur in wet, acidic bogs, mires and flushes, on damp heathland and in acidic damp grasslands.’ It is shy to flower and is pollinated by moths at night which are attracted to the white luminous petals.