Despite its relatively small size, Bull Island represents approximately half of the known floral species found in the county of Dublin and around 30% of all species found within Ireland, making it an oasis of biodiversity of national importance. Considering its comparative size in relation to the island in conjunction with its vast expanse of rough, rich in a diverse number of flower and grass species, Royal Dublin plays an enormous role in the preservation of Bull Island as one of the biodiversity hot spots of Ireland.
Since the introduction of the winter management of the rough areas of the course, there has been a noticeable explosion of floral diversity which has steadily increased year after year. This has led to the proliferation of more and more rare flowers springing up in greater numbers across the course which could be argued rivals in many respects, those found outside of the fences.
In light of this impressive display, it seems fitting that members become aware of some of the treasure troves that can be found under one's feet while looking for a wayward shank so there will be a monthly article detailing one of the rare flowers found on the course. This month's flower is the Bee Orchid.
Flower of The Month - Bee Orchid - Found near the 10th tee.
The Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) is one of the most bizarre and fascinating flowers to be found on Bull Island or Ireland for that matter. Not just for its odd appearance but for its ecological and evolutionary modus operandi, both of which are the result of a mechanism called pseudocopulation. As the name suggests, the flower has evolved to look, smell and feel like a female bee in order to spread its pollen (via a male bee) to other bee orchid plants.
Although the appearance of the plant seems vaguely similar to a bee, its main deception comes in the scent that it omits which is similar to that of bee pheromones. Pheromones are the language of insects with bees having an exceptionally complex and diverse number of pheromones that relay multiple cues to intraspecific species. Despite this, the orchids have managed to evolve a scent that appears to be more attractive than that of a female bee.
The Bee Orchid flourishes in open habitats and if vegetation becomes too thick, it can easily be outcompeted by thick grasses. This is why it is necessary to mow grass annually but also to cut it later in the year to allow the plant enough time to mature so as to spread its pollen on the unsuspecting back of an overzealous bee.