Introduction to the Wildflowers of Ireland

In Ireland, we have over 800 flowering plants. Our mild climate and varied soil types are the major influences on the range of plants growing here.  Our flora, though much shared with Great Britain, contains fifteen plants which are not found there and this group of plants is collectively known as the Lusitanian Flora. 

Common Fleabane
The members of this plant group would have relatives more usually found in the Mediterranean. One of the most interesting areas for Irish and visiting botanists alike is Co Clare’s limestone pavement, The Burren and there are several of the Burren’s wildflowers on this website, including Mountain Avens, Hoary Rockrose, Lesser Butterfly Orchid, Shrubby Cinquefoil and Spring Gentian.  In our natural woodlands, plants such as Wood Sorrel and Enchanter’s Nightshade occur, and on our blanket and raised bogs one can find Bog Asphodel, Common Butterwort and Round-leaved Sundew.  

Many plant families are well represented in Ireland.  The Daisy Family – Asteracea – is widespread with varieties of Ragwort, Thistle, Knapweed and Hawkweed.  Also the Geranium Family – Geraniaceae – containing the wonderful Burren wildflower, Bloody Cranesbill, several other Cranesbills and the well-known Herb Robert. 

St Dabeoc's Heath
St Dabeoc's Heath

Conservation of our wildflowers is of the utmost importance as they are now facing threats on several different sides.  One is the changing uses of land for building purposes or different agricultural practices and there is the increase in invasive species, particularly aquatic plants, which crowd out our native species.  Also it is estimated that climate change will affect 15% of our Irish flora, the most vulnerable being alpine plants.  Estimates are that as many as 120 species are under threat in Ireland, six on the verge of extinction.  Through education and awareness of the diversity of our wildflowers, perhaps, just perhaps, the tide can be held back a little longer.