The first of the wild bluebells have come into flower. I photographed these among the trees growing beside the old Anglican Church in Moyard. There are also plenty of bluebells growing in the Connemara National Park, where they form a wonderful carpet of blue during the month of May. This photograph doesn’t quite capture the true colour of the flowers, which are slightly more purplish in real life.
This charming pink flower is known as the cuckoo flower because it appears each year around the same time as the first cuckoos are to be heard. As it happens, I spotted the first of these flowers yesterday, and I heard my first cuckoo today, so it must be true! The flower is also known as Lady’s Smock. It thrives in damp ground, so it is very much at home in Connemara and particularly in what passes for a “lawn” behind our house. This year, it seems to be more prolific than usual, perhaps it’s something to do with the very wet winter we have just had.
These lovely flowers grow in huge numbers along the Connemara seashore. Somehow they seem to be able to thrive on solid rocks battered by the Atlantic waves. It has been a cold spring this year, and few of these are flowering, but I found one plant in flower yesterday nestled in a hollow of the cliff-face at the beach in Rossadilisk, near Cleggan. I have also come across them growing at the rocky summit of a mountain in the Twelve Bens. The plant is also sometimes known by the name “Thrift”.
I noticed the first of the Wild Strawberry flowers on our lane today. The flowers are easy to spot as they appear before the rampant summer growth of the hedgerows which tend to hide the tiny strawberries when they appear in early summer, as you can see in the picture below. Wild Strawberries have a delicious flavour, which is much more intense than the cultivated varieties. They are best eaten straight off the bush, while still warm from the sun.
The blackthorn is a viciously spiky shrub that grows abundantly in Connemara. At this time of year, the delicate white flowers look almost like a sprinkling of snow along the hedgerows. There is a delightful description in my ancient copy of The Observer’s book of Trees and Shrubs of “the pure white starry blossoms that brave the cold blasts before the leaf-buds dare unfurl their coverings”. In late summer and autumn, the blackthorn produces its dark purple fruit, known as sloes. These are far too bitter to eat, but can be used to make jellies, or, even better Sloe Gin, a delicious sweet liqueur with a rich dark red colour, which will be ready just in time for Christmas.
I was surprised to see this charming yellow flower growing in a shady part of our lane today. Officially it comes into flower in May, and we have had such a cold spring this year, you’d expect flowers to come into bloom later than usual. Of course, it’s possible that I have mis-identified it, although I’m fairly sure it is a Yellow Pimpernel.
Several closely-related varieties of violet grow in Ireland, and I have noticed a lot of variation of colour, from light blue to deep violet. The flower is particularly attractive, especially when you come across a clump of them clinging to a wall by the roadside. This year, I didn’t see any until the beginning of April, although they often flower during March.
I spotted this Wood Sorrel today growing on a shady bank under some mature trees. On warm sunny days the dainty white flowers open up to show the stamens inside a white star-shape with a yellow centre, similar in appearance to the Wood Anemone. The petals have beautiful delicate veins, visible when the flowers open. The wood sorrel is easily identified by the shamrock-like leaves,. Some people eat the leaves in salads, but I didn’t find them very tasty!
This rather inconspicuous flower is growing on disturbed ground on a building site on our lane. It gets its name from the leaves which resemble those of the nettle although they do not sting and the plants are not related. On closer inspection, the flowers have an amazing shape almost like an orchid, as you can see from this zoomed in picture:
This beautiful little flower is growing in a patch of woodland on the riverbank near us in Moyard. I have also seen it in the Ellis Woodland walk in the Connemara National Park in Letterfrack. When the flowers are closed they could easily be mistaken for Wood Sorrel, but the leaves are quite different. In sunshine, the flowers can open fully, and sometimes form a beautiful carpet of little white stars.
We have had a very cold month of March this year and there are still very few flowers in bloom. I spotted these tiny greenish-yellow flowers in a shady part of my local lane. The flowers are so small you would easily overlook them. But close up they are very pretty. I couldn’t find them in my flower books, but identified them with an online search.
Cardamine flexuosaComing towards the end of March, there are still very few wild-flowers about, so I have been extra vigilant when out walking and spotted this tiny, inconspicuous white flower growing by the side of the road. It has proven rather difficult to identify as there are two, almost identical, varieties of bitter-cress. Following some research I finally figured out that the so-called “Hairy” bitter-cress is not actually hairy, while the “Wavy” bitter-cress is! So, as this tiny plant has noticeably hairy stems, I have deduced that it is the Wavy Bitter-cress, but if anyone has a better way of distinguishing between these plants, please let me know.
This is the true, native Irish Wild Garlic. It has clusters of small white star-shaped flowers and wide, straight leaves. It is sometimes confused with the Three-cornered Leek/Garlic which is also very common in Connemara, although it is not native to Ireland. I photographed this plant, in the delightful woodland walk in the Connemara National Park in Letterfrack. It is a sheltered spot and one of the first places where spring flowers can be seen blooming. Later in the spring these woods are literally carpeted with these plants, and the smell of garlic can be overwhelming. The leaves are edible, and make a delicious pesto.
The dandelion flowers all year round and has pretty yellow flowers and edible leaves. The young leaves are nice in a salad, but they have diuretic properties, which explains why the flower is called “pis-en-lit” in French. However it is not popular with gardeners as it produces prolific seeds and its deep tap roots are virtually impossible to dig up. When I was a child, my parents paid a bounty for every every dandelion-head we picked from our lawn. I can’t remember how much we were paid for each one, it may have been 6 old pence. While it supplemented our pocket-money nicely, it had little or no impact on the long-term dandelion population.
The Daisy is one of the most familiar and widespread wild flowers, flowering almost year-round. I photographed this one in early March when there were few other flowers to be seen. The Daisy always brings back childhood memories of summer days in the garden, making daisy chains with my sister.
This tiny flower grows on salty seashores. Its succulent leaves are rich in vitamin C and it was supposedly eaten by sailors to help ward off scurvy, hence its name. I had a taste but it was not particularly appetising, and I’d imagine that you’d have to harvest quite a lot of these little plants to get your RDA!
The Lesser Celandine is one of the first flowers to bloom in early spring, and as easily confused with the Marsh Marigold, which has similar leaves and flowers but only 5 petals. The Lesser Celandine flowers form delightfully colourful clsuters in the hedge along our lane. The flowers gradually turn white before they lose their petals, as you can see in the picture below.
Allium triquetrumIn Connemara you find vast carpets of this wild garlic growing in shaded and woodland areas. This variety, which has bell shaped flowers, is not native to Ireland and is more properly known as three-cornered leek/three-cornered garlic (Allium triquetrum). The native wild garlic, or Ramsons has smaller, star-shaped flowers, and wider leaves. The Three-cornered leek can spread to form carpets of white flowers. You can often smell the garlic even before you see it. It is edible although some people (including me) find the flavour a little too pungent. A popular recipe is wild garlic pesto which takes advantage of the vivid green of the leaves. You can buy home-made wild garlic pesto in many of the country markets around Ireland.