KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: A native surprise on our larder shelf

Bog of Allen Centre

Nuala Madigan


Nuala Madigan


KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: A native surprise on our larder shelf

Wild Marjoram PICTURE: Nuala Madigan

Last week, while doing a survey, I came across a number of wildflowers that I have yet to feature in this column, so I took the opportunity to snap some pictures to share with you over the coming weeks.

This week’s piece may interest those of you who enjoy cooking with herbs. You may be familiar, and indeed have used the herb oregano, a species I always thought was from the warmer climate of the Mediterranean region of Europe.

I was surprised when reading about this week’s species to learn that, in fact, oregano grows here in Ireland. It is actually a native plant and the reason why I did not know this is because we call this herb by a different name, wild marjoram (máirtin fiáin as Gaeilge).

This wild herb grows along roadsides, dry banks and it especially likes alkaline soil conditions. It is a member of the mint family and has a strong aroma.

It was traditionally collected and used in cooking, but also collected and used for medicinal purposes. It was said to have helped relieve chest complaints and when made into an ointment helped with muscular pains.

Today it is more valued and appreciated as a source of nectar for invertebrates during its flowering period of June to September each year.

The plant grows erect, reaching a height of up to 70cm. The light green, oval, pointed tip-shaped leaves grow opposite each other along its stem, at the top of which the pink flowers grow in clusters.

As always, a gentle reminder that I don’t recommend you pick and eat any wild plant growing in your local area, but I do always encourage you to try and find each week’s species. Take time this week to walk along a roadside verge or canal bank and see can you find wild marjoram — also known as oregano — growing in your local area.

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