Purple-loosestrife. Picture: Nuala Madigan
Visiting the west of Ireland I came across a relatively tall wildlfower growing dominantly at field margins, along road verges and in wet fields.
At first glance I thought maybe it was rosebay willowherb (lus na tine) which is also in flower at the moment, but having a closer look I now believe the wildflower was purple-loosestrife (créachtach).
While it is said this wildflower can be found growing all over Ireland, I have never seen it growing as predominantly at is was in County Clare.
The plant can grow to a height of 1.5 metres and flowers each year from June to August. The flowers are borne in clustered whorls in a spike at the top of the plant.
The flower colour is deep pink-purple. The leaves are longer than wide and grow opposite each other along the stem.
It was the leaves that helped me distinguish between whether this plant was rosebay willowherb or purple loose-strife. Both wildflowers are tall and rosebay willowherb can reach a height of two metres. Both are in flower at this time of year and both begin to flower in June.
Both these wildflowers hold their flowers on spikes. Flowers are arranged in whorls along these spikes, and both have pink-purple coloured petals.
Both have long and narrow leaves — however the leaves of rosebay willowherb are coarsely toothed while those of purple loose-strife are smooth at the edges.
Purple-loosestrife is a native plant in Ireland and is said to be an important source of nectar for butterflies, including the brimstone.
Reading a little about this plant online, I found out that it is actually considered an invasive species in North America, where it was first introduced in the 19th century. Now established, it is affecting both native animals and plant populations.
While August will soon be coming to an end, take the next few weeks to explore the wildflowers in your local area — you may be surprised what you find.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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