More than seven hundred species of flowering plant have been recorded in Ireland. Most of them can be found within the Shannon region and some can be seen nowhere else in the country. From Burren to bog, the Shannon region offers an unbelievable bounty for botanists.
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The River Shannon and its great lakes, together with its tributaries and the abundance of small lakes in county Clare give another dimension, a transition from permanent water, through fen to the water meadows of the Callows. The Shannon estuary brings in salt marsh and great reed beds and then there are the sea coasts of Kerry and Clare. And every county in the region has its share of rich and poor farmland, with fields divided by hedges, bright in spring and summer with the blossoms of the thorn trees and the wild flowers that grow in places safe from grazing cattle.
The Burren is an area of more than 500 square kilometres of mountain and lowland, characterised by an enormous expanse of bare grey limestone rock. It is the home of an extraordinary assemblage of flowers that are not only beautiful, but also extremely rare in other parts of the country. They include the white-flowered dryas and the blue gentian – both of which are common in the Alps but grow here at sea level.
The Burren in May is a veritable rock garden. Among the rocks there are patches, large and small, of woodland, green pasture, and wild flowers of an extraordinary variety. The bogs are areas, lowland or hilly, covered in peat where only a small number of species of plants can live. In spite of the limited variety, the peatlands are exciting because of the very specialised flora that they support. The few flowers of the peatlands include wonderful masses of purple heather, contrasting with the white tufts of bog cotton and the yellow, star-like flowers of asphodel. Fens and wet meadows are bright with purple, pink, and white orchids.
The seaside has its specialties, above all the abundant pink-flowered tussocks of thrift, together with white campion and yellow vetch. On a larger scale comes the gorse, abundant in neglected pastures and on the hillsides, sheets of yellow in spring – but always in flower somewhere. It’s said that kissing is out of season when the gorse is out of bloom.
In May the hedges of hawthorn are masses of white on a green background. Early in spring the pale yellow of primroses with purple violets brighten the hedgerows and later they are coloured with white stitchwort and red campion. The roadside verges display a host of yellow-flowered hawkweeds and purple thistles. In the shallows of the lakes and slow rivers yellow and white lilies bloom and the banks are bright with irises.
Information courtesy Shannon region tourism development.
Photos courtesy Lakeland Cam and Cornwall Cam and Shannon Region Tourism Development.