I was back in Rosadillisk yesterday for the first time in two weeks, and the summer growth has finally taken off. This beautiful stretch of coast is home to a wonderful array of wild flowers. The latest to come into bloom is the kidney vetch, whose yellow flowers are attached to unusual fluffy structures, for all the world like cotton-wool balls! There are clumps of these clinging to the cliff-edge where they must be able to survive regular drenching with salty water.
I came across this buttercup-like flower growing by the edge of Garraunbaun Lake in Moyard. After a bit of research I have decide that it is the lesser Spearwort. Its reddish stems distinguish it from the buttercups, and the unopened flowers have a distinctive shape. Apparently the plant is poisonous.
Marsh lousewort is found in wet ground in bogs and lakesides. It is a much taller plant than lousewort, but the leaves and flowers are more or less identical. I have only come across this variety of lousewort once, beside the lake in Moyard, Co Galway.
In May and early June, the hedgerows throughout Ireland are brightened by the prolific white flowers of the Hawthorn trees, also known as Whitethorn and the May Tree. The hawthorn tree is very important in Irish folklore. At the festival of Bealtaine (Mayday), people would tie rags or strips of coloured cloth to a “rag tree” to grant a wish. Most of these special Hawthorn trees are beside holy wells, although there is an example on the Killary Harbour close to Leenane that is not associated with any well. The Tree Council of Ireland has a database of heritage trees which lists the trees of religious significance around Ireland.
I have fond memories of cowslips from my childhood in County Dublin, when the fields near my home were carpeted in yellow during May, and we used to put bunches of them in jam-jars. In recent years they have become very rare, due to over-picking and changing agricultural practices. I was delighted to see a field full of them once again, in the Aughris peninsula in Cleggan, where I took these photographs. they also grow wild on Omey Island nearby.
There are several closely related varieties of Vetch, easily recognisable as a member of the pea family. I believe I have correctly identified this as the Common Vetch. Here in Connemara it doesn’t seem to be as common as the Bush Vetch and Tufted Vetch; I have only found one example, on a quiet lane in Moyard.