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29 May 2022

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Spring flowers are beginning to bloom

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Spring flowers are beginning to bloom

Sweet Alison. Picture: Nuala Madigan

I photographed a cluster of small white flowers last week and I was unsure what they were. If you are out and about and come across flowers in your local community I recommend you visit a website called the Wildflowers of Ireland, www.wildflowersofireland.net.

This website was developed by an individual who simply had an interest in wildflowers and after years of recording them decided to make this useful online identification tool for all of us to use. It lists plants by colour, by name and even what time of year you can expect to find them in bloom in your community.

The small white, cluster of flowers that I recorded I now believe to be Sweet Alison (Alasam cumhra as Gaelige). The plant is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe but its small, pretty white flowers made it an attractive plant to grow in gardens all over Europe. You will often find it growing in garden rockeries as it prefers dry ground and can live in thin layers of soil.

The leaves are grey-green, narrow, smooth edged and pointed while the flowers are white. This flower usually flowers from May to September each year — however, as it is not a native plant, the mild winter we have had may have resulted in it blooming earlier than usual. Indeed, the sheltered location that I recorded in is could be a contributing factor which resulted in the flower blooming later in autumn and I recorded the end of this bloom.

This plant has now escaped into our wild countryside spaces and is considered naturalised. Naturalised plants, although not native, are not considered to pose any risk to our native wildlife or environment. As its name suggests, it is sweetly scented and actually makes it an important nectar source for Ireland’s bees and butterflies which support pollination in our communities.

This week, what flowers will you find beginning to bloom in your community. Will you find dandelions, cowslips or snowdrops?

Don’t forget if you come across a wildlife species that you would like help identifying I would be happy to help, contact me at bogs@ipcc.ie.

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