KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: Earth smoke is a bright eastern joy

Bog of Allen Nature Centre

Nuala Madigan


Nuala Madigan


KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: Earth smoke is a bright eastern joy

Common fumitory PIC: Nuala Madigan

This week is National Biodiversity Week, a celebration of the variety of life, both plant and animal. While weeding in my vegetable patch, I found this week’s species growing between the garlic.

This plant I was not familiar with, so with the help of I now believe it to be common fumitory (Camán searraigh díge as Gaeilge). You may also find this species growing in your garden, but also on waste ground or along roadside verges.

This plant is actually a member of the poppy family. I am unsure if this plant is native or introduced. It is a species recorded on the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s website and while reading about commom fumitory, some websites list the plant as native to Europe while other sites suggest that this plant is introduced to Ireland.

In Ireland it is commonly found growing in the eastern counties between May and October each year, but less frequent in the west. The flowers are bright pink-purple with dark purple tips in colour and are spikey-looking.

The plant is not tall, reaching only between 10cm to 30cm in height. The leaflets are pale green in colour and grow on weak stems that can be erect or scramble along the surface.

You may know common fumitory as earth smoke or drug fumitory. The first alternative name of ‘earth smoke’ is apparently given to the plant as the pale green leaflets on dewy mornings look like smoke rising from the ground. I photographed this plant on a bright sunny day so I cannot confirm this.

The second name of ‘drug fumitory’ is apparently given to this plant as it is a recognised herb that is valued in many countries for its medicinal uses. In Germany, France and Spain extracts from this plant are legally sold for medicinal purposes, but it is not legal in all countries throughout Europe due to its limited toxicology studies.

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