Kildare Wildlife Watch: The great escape of the green alkanet

With Nuala Madigan from the Bog of Allen Nature Centre, Lullymore

Nuala Madigan

Reporter:

Nuala Madigan

Email:

bogs@ipcc.ie

Kildare Wildlife Watch: The great escape of the green alkanet

The green alkanet. Picture: Nuala Madigan

We have experinced a rather mixed couple of weeks of weather, as it was extremely warm over the Easter long weekend and then heavy rain followed last week.

The warm weather brought, for me at least, the first opportunity to get out into the garden at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre. With new raised beds in our greenhouse needing compost, it was an ideal time to get stuck into our compost systems and see how, throughout the winter, the variety of natural decomposers, including soil bacteria and worms, have been working away, changing garden waste into a fantastic compost.

While digging my way through a heap of compost harvested last summer, I came across this week’s wildlife species, green alkanet (Boglas spáineach as Gaeilge).

Considering the name of this plant, the actually flowers are not green, but are in fact bright blue. It is, however, a leafy evergreen plant with lots of oval-shaped leaves that are covered in hairs. The plant can grow to a height of up to 90cm, making it an attractive garden plant when in flower. This flower is actually thought to be a wildflower that has escaped from gardens and therefore it is not native; however, it is commonly found growing in the East of Ireland outside gardens in shady, damp areas.

It flowers from April to June each year and is considered an important flower for bees, as these pollinate the plant, allowing it to reproduce by seed.

This plant comes with a warning for any gardener — green alkanet can also regenerate from their long tap root and as a result can take over a flower bed in a sort space of time!

This long tap root is said to have been used to extract a red dye from in the past.

If you want to remove green alkanet from your garden, simply dig up the tap root.

If you would like to suggest a species to focus on for ‘Wildlife Watch’ contact the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on 045 860133 or email bogs@ipcc.ie