19 Aug 2022

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The pretty plant that can smoke out fleas!

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The pretty plant that can smoke out fleas!

Common fleabane. Picture: Nuala Madigan

While many wildflowers are coming to the end of their flowering season some will bloom into autumn. All of these autumn flowering plants are important sources of nectar for our pollinators before the cold winter ahead.

Common fleabane (lus buí na ndreancaidí) is a native wildflower that only begins to flower in July and will flower to the end of September.

I was surprised by the name of this plant, when I first identified it, considering the reference to fleas within the name.

Reading a little about this wildflower, the reason for its common name became clearer. I learned that in times past its common name had indeed a connection to fleas! It is said that the smoke created when common fleabane was added to a fire would rid a house of fleas.

This wildflower grows to a height of one metre and you will find it growing in your community along hedgerows and damp field margins.

The flower is bright yellow and the flat flower heads grow in clusters at the top of the plant. The wavy edged leaves are heart shaped and grow along the upright stems. By the time this plant finally blooms in July — the basal leaves, those located at the bottom of the plant — have already withered.

Over the coming weeks it will be your last opportunity to identify some of Ireland’s wildflowers until next year.

This week also watch for knapweed (mínscoth), meadowsweet (airgead luachra) and devil’s-Bit scabious (odhrach bhallach) all which you will find growing along hedgerows and damp field margins.

As I write this piece the sun is shining. If this weather holds as you enjoy a wildflower walk in your area, you will almost certainly identify a variety of butterflies. Watch for brimstone, green-veined white, meadow brown, red admiral and peacock.

Take time this week for a walk and discover for yourself the colours of your autumn local wildflowers and butterflies.

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 email

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