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29 May 2022

KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: The bright yellow pollinators of early spring

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Centre

KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: The bright yellow pollinators of early spring

Oilseed rape. Picture: Nuala Madigan

There are many wonderful wildflowers emerging at this time of year, and three with bright yellow blooms that you can identify in your community this week include dandelion, lesser celandine and oil seed rape.

Oilseed rape, often referred to as simply rape (ráib as Gaeilge) is not a native plant but an agriculture crop grown for the use in animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption and biodiesel.

Today it can be found growing along roadside verges and waste ground.

Rape flowers from April through to August, so you have plenty of time to observe this flower in your community. I identified this plant growing at the entrance to a housing estate in Naas earlier this week.

The flowers are bright yellow each with four petals. The flowers grow in what is known as a raceme, which is a cluster of flowers at the top of the plant with the oldest flowers growing at the bottom of the cluster.

The flowers are supported on a blue to green coloured stem that can reach up to 1.5 metres in height.

The leaves are leathery to the touch and also blue to green in colour.

The leaves are pointed and clasp the stem — that is, the lobes of the leaf seem to wrap the stem. When growing in a field, this plant creates bright visual displays of yellow carpets that are unmistakable. Dandelion you will be familiar with as it grows almost any place, with its long tape root making it a difficult plant to remove from gardens.

Similar to oilseed rape, dandelion will also flower for most of the year.

These early spring flowers are important sources of nectar for our pollinators. Pollination is the fertilisation of flowers. This allows for the flowers to produce their fruits which protect the seeds.

It is from the seeds that plants can reproduce, but in relation to oilseed rape, this is where the oil is extracted from.

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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