Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The first to flower on our native peatlands

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The first to flower on our native peatlands

Bog rosemary. Picture: Nuala Madigan

Irish peatlands are open and wet landscapes. They are exposed to the extremes of our climate and have adapted many ways to survive and thrive on Ireland’s peatlands.

To prevent freezing in winter most peatland plants hibernate. This results in our peatland habitats appearing very dull and brown in colour at this time of year.

However not all plants have to hibernate as they have adapted to store very little water in the body of the plant, which in turn prevents them from freezing in winter.

One example of this is bog rosemary (lus na móinte as Gaeilge). This is a native plant, and it is one of the first to flower on our local peatlands. It is a small plant growing no more than 40cm in height.

The urn-shaped flowers, that grow in clusters, are pink in colour, first appearing in late April, and as they mature will turn paler in colour. The narrow curved leaves are relatively long when you compare them to the height of the plant. They are dark glossy green on the surface, but pale white on the underside.

The features of bog rosemary are adaptations to living on our peatland habitats.

The dark green leaves enable bog rosemary to photosynthesize, meaning the plant can makes its own food. The narrow leaves and their curved nature helps to minimise transpiration.

Transpiration is water movement and water loss from a plant, with the water loss occurring in times of high temperatures.

As bog-rosemary holds very little water in the body of the plant, too much water loss would affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.

The low growing nature also supports the plant to minimise water loss as the taller plants growing around it offer shade.

The fact that bog rosemary is evergreen also enables it to produce food all year round and it is therefore less reliant on the nutrient-poor peat to survive.

Will you find bog rosemary in your local peatland this week?

If you would like help identifying local wildlife or indeed to share your images of local wildlife encountered to be used in a future Wildlife Watch, contact me on 045 860133 or bogs@ipcc.ie.

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