Wildflowers of Ireland
bby Michael L. Charters


Most of these photos were taken on a family trip to my ancestral homeland in 1998.  We spent a good deal of time in a region of western Ireland south of Galway called the Burren. This area which is in County Clare is quite atypical of Ireland, even of the surrounding area, or of any other place in Western Europe.  The Burren is a huge limestone bulge rising above the pastoral green fields of County Clare.  The word burren is derived from the Gaelic bhoireann meaning a 'barren stony place', and it has often been described as a limestone desert.  But in point of fact, while appearing bare and lifeless from a distance, it is a locality that is un-believably productive and rich in flora.  The ice ages forced arctic and alpine plants far southward where they reached this area and have remained, while the warm waters of the Gulf Stream flowing up the west coast of Ireland encouraged the growth of more southerly Mediterranean plants, so that this is the only place in Europe where many of these species exist side by side.  The entire area is characterized by carboniferous limestone pavements fractured and fissured and covered by springs, caves, swallowholes, underground rivers and sudden depressions.  After periods of persistent rainfall, temporary lakes called turloughs rise more or less like the vernal pools of southern California.  While May and June is the prime wildflower season, there are beautiful species to be found at almost any time of the year. Ireland is a small country, less than 1/5 the size of California, and the Burren makes up only about 1% of Ireland, yet to be found there are northern and southern species, sea-level and mountaintop species, and limestone lovers and haters all in close proximity.  Some of the other photos presented here were taken in Killarney National Park in southwest Ireland, and at the Giant's Causeway in the north of Ireland.  One day I hope to return there to do some more extensive botany and some better photography.  In the words of a well-known Irish blessing, "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.  May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.  And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand." Or, to put it another way, "May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you're dead."

Thanks to Jeremy Roberts of the United Kingdom for making several corrections.

Digitalis purpurea
Common spotted-orchid
Dactylorhiza fuchsii
Yellow flag
Iris pseudacorus
Ragged robin
Lychnis flos-cuculi
Achillea millefolium
Fragrant orchid
Gymnadenea conopsea
Broad-leaved willowherb
Epilobium montanum
Red clover
Trifolium pratense
Tufted vetch
Vicia cracca
English stonecrop
Sedum anglicum
Purple loosestrife
Lythrum salicaria
Prunella vulgaris
Curled dock
Rumex crispus
Mountain avens
Dryas octopetala
Dog violet
Viola riviniana
Slender St. John's wort
Hypericum pulchrum
Thyme broomrape
Orobanche alba var. rubra
with Eyebright (Euphrasia nemorosa) and
Wild thyme (Thymus praecox)
Bog asphodel
Narthecium ossifragum
Wall pennywort
Umbilicus rupestris
Common cottongrass
Eriophorum angustifolium
Dog rose
Rosa canina
White spotted-orchid
Dactylorhiza fuchsii ssp. o'kellyi
Bloody cranesbill
Geranium sangineum
Ox-eye daisy
Leucanthemum vulgare
Wild thyme
Thymus praecox
Red valerian
Centranthus ruber
Germander speedwell
Veronica chamaedrys
Sea campion
Silene uniflora
Thrift or sea pink
Armeria maritima
Pedicularis sylvatica
Creeping thistle
Cirsium arvense
Sheep's bit
Jasione montana
Hardy fuchsia
Fuchsia magellanica

Limestone terraces of the Burren
The Cliffs of Moher, tallest in Europe
Killarney National Park



Carruthers, Terry Kerry: A Natural History
Cunningham, George Burren Journey North
Cunningham, George Burren Journey West
Cunningham, George Exploring the Burren
D'Arcy, Gordon The Natural History of the Burren
Donaldson, Florence The Burren Flowers
Feehan, John The Book of the Burren
Hackney, Paul (ed.) Stewart and Corry's Flora of the North-East of Ireland
Keane, Maryangela The Burren
Korff, Anne et. al. The Burren, A Rambler's Guide and Map
Nelson, E. Charles An Annotated Topographical Checklist of the Flowering Plants, Conifers, Ferns & Fern Allies of The Burren Region
Nelson, E. Charles Wild Plants of the Burren and the Aran Islands
Nelson, E. Charles Wild Plants of Connemara and West Mayo
Nelson, E. Charles and Walsh, Wendy The Burren
Pilcher, Jonathan and Hall, Valerie Flora Hibernica
Reynolds, Sylvia C.P. A Catalogue of Alien Plants in Ireland
Ross, Ruth Isabel Irish Wild Flowers
Schauer, T. A Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain and Europe
Watson, Philip S. The Giant's Causeway, A Remnant of Chaos
Webb, D.A. An Irish Flora
Webb, D.A. Flora of Connemara and the Burren

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© 2003-2004  Michael L. Charters,  Sierra Madre, CA.