Early summer sees our wildflowers resplendent and is a great time of year to search for a wide range of species blooming in our meadows, verges and woodland. Here, guest contributor Rosie Jones (no relation) shares a few of her favourites (CJ).
I’ve always loved learning about wildflowers, vibrant and vital, they were how I first got interested in the natural world. Recently there’s been an increased awareness of how spaces home to wildflowers, such as meadows and woodlands, have been lost causing conservation efforts to turn towards preserving sites. With this in mind and during the best season to see an array of blooms, I thought I might take the opportunity to share some of my favourite Irish wildflowers.
It’s not often that I see a wildflower such a beautiful shade of blue and every time I spot an ironically named Green Alkanet, I appreciate this iris coloured perennial even more.
These small and surprisingly hairy plants are scattered all throughout Ireland but more commonly east, especially in Kinsale. They can usually easily be found around Coachford and Bandon too.
An introduced species, they’re an important source of nectar for pollinators after they flower from May-September and a favourite of bees. Able to reach up to a metre high, Green Alkanets are very noticeable in hedgerows and on the border of woods where they grow.
I’ve come to associate this wildflower with familiar Forget-me-nots and I always make sure to be on the lookout for either whenever I am on a walk!
A very small and sweet flower much like Green Alkanets is Wood Avens. I took this picture by some steps and above it, a big hazel tree. They’re known to grow underneath trees and in the shade though, by contrast, this is a bright little wildflower that starts to appear in spring.
They are found in the north, going as far south as Belturbet.
Just like native Agrimony, Wood Avens is a foodplant for caterpillars of the Grizzled Skipper butterfly. This makes them really crucial, especially as last year Grizzled Skippers suffered their worst year in 42 years of records. Hopefully, in the run-up to July, more Wood Avens can be seen up north as they are very much needed.
Another yellow wildflower and growing sometimes as much as 80cm high, Yellow Toadflax is an impressive plant found in meadows and along banks and walls, where I found this one.
This species is near threatened, growing in dry areas. Spotted mostly in County Wexford, I’ve seen very rarely shrubs in Bree and Ballymurn around this time last year.
Moths often visit this wildflower. Yellow Toadflax needs to be pollinated by insects rather than wind dispersal, which is done by a range of butterflies and bees.
They are a very pretty flower indeed with a slight orange blush, reminding me of the sun which was out when I was snapping this photo.
Perhaps one of my absolute favourites, Guelder Rose is one of those plants that you can’t help but marvel at. It is native to Ireland and grows at the edge of fields and nestled in hedges/bushes.
It’s not a rose, but a shrub made up of white flowers and very small heads complete with five equally very small petals. Also ecologically important, the flowers develop into red berries which are a large part of local birds’ diet come autumn to winter.
I have really enjoyed finding out a little bit more about the wildflowers I find most interesting amongst the many incredible features of Ireland’s natural landscapes. As summer continues, so does the flowering of many more blooms and witnessing this will be truly magical in the weeks to come.
All images except Guelder Rose © Rosie Jones — Guelder Rose by Derek Harper via Wikimedia Commons.