College Stops Mowing Lawn to Promote Pollination, Discovers Rare Flower
A botanical survey at the end of May revealed more than 30 different plant species
By: Safia Samee Ali
A rare Irish orchid was discovered on a Dublin college lawn after the school stopped cutting its grass as part of a “no mow” initiative to promote pollination and wildflower blooming.
A botany professor at Trinity College Dublin found the rare flower, called the broad-leaved helleborine, under a birch tree in one of the school’s sprawling lawns after it stopped mowing.
The find was significant, as the plant is never very common in any one place and is mostly found in woodlands, the college said in a statement.
“This is super exciting; it is a rare native Irish orchid,” Jenny McElwain, who found the flower, told The Irish Times. “If you looked, you would find it in most counties in Ireland, but you’d probably only find one, and it would pop up so infrequently. It might pop up once, and you wouldn’t see it again for 10 years, and three of them have popped up in the lawn.”
The environmental factors required to grow are rare to find, as the seeds of this orchid need the right fungal partner to germinate and grow for the first few weeks of its life.
“This one needs a perfect set of circumstances. If it finds the exact right fungal partner, it forms fungi around its roots,” McElwain said.
This “complex” environment would never have been discovered if the university hadn’t stopped mowing. After discovering the flower, the school extended the no mow period through June, during which time a second orchid species popped up, the college said.
A botanical survey of the lawns at the end of May revealed more than 30 different plant species flowering on the lawns, the college said.
McElwain said it’s not clear how the orchid seeds found their way to the school’s lawn, but guessed they may have been transported by birds, humans, or the wind.
“Or possibly, these orchids have simply been lying in wait, dormant in the soil for decades, waiting to be given a chance to grow.”
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