Thrift Picture: Nuala Madigan
Living in a land-locked county, for many it is usually only in the summer months that we venture to the coastal areas around Ireland.
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One species that is often dominant is a small wildlfower with grass-like leaves call thrift (rabhán as Gaeilge). You may also know this native wildflower as Sea Pink. Thrift, like many sea plants, does not grow on the sandy shoreline due to the constant intense and damaging crashing waves but it does grow not too far away, at the verges of rock pools, in small crevices on cliff faces, in salt marshes and along roadside verges.
As mentioned, the leaves of Thrift look very much look like grass — they are short, flattened and narrow, dark green in colour, evergreen in nature and grow in clusters that form what looks like a cushion.
The flowers are held on erect stems that grow to a height of 20cm to 30cm and are clustered to form a round head.
The five-petalled pink flowers can be seen from April to July each year. Each petal has three dark purple veins and each flower has five long and noticeable anthers.
These hold the bright yellow pollen to attract bees and other insects to pollinate this plant.
Thrift, in what some describe as ‘flower language’, means sympathy. One feature of thrift is that it can hold large amounts of copper, and, although not to the same level, other metals including zinc, nickel and iron in the plant, and due to this it is referred to as a hyperaccumulater of metals.
Although most plants have a means of regulating these chemicals, large quantities ultimately can kill most plants — however, not thrift. As a result thrift is what is known as a phytoremediater, and is an important plant used to clean up contaminated land.
So if you get the opportunity over the coming weeks to visit the coast, see if you can find thrift during your visit.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org