This week in Ireland we celebrate Heritage Week. A week of celebration of all our Irish heritage, nature, history, people and more.
A big thank you to all those who attended the wildflowers walks I was involved in over the weekend at the Foxford Riverfest and Glore Mill near KIltimagh. It was wonderful to see so many interested people, both young and old.
A couple of people mention was how lovely it is to learn the names of plants but then how easy it is to forget, days later. So I thought I’d put together a post of some of what we saw to help.
One of the favourites. A great plant for bees and butterflies. Purple Loosestrife likes damp ground, and can be often seen in large clumps. Meadowsweet (see below), likes similar conditions and they are often found together. Loosestrife has a high tannin content and was used for tanning leather. The flowers were used for making a dye.
It’s well worth stopping to smell this flower, it has a heavy almost intoxicating scent! It gets it name from “mead sweet” – because it was used to flavour and sweeten mead. It was also added to wines and ales. In folk medicine it was used as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory. It contains salicylic acid, which was synthesized into aspirin.
Another great bee plant. We have many different vetches in Ireland and Tufted vetch is one that flowers later in the season. All vetches are legumes and can fix their own nitrogen.
We have a number of willowherb species growing in Ireland. Willowherbs are also visited by bees. The leaves have been used to make tea. It is popular in Russia and know as Kaporie tea. Some species such as rosebay willowherb can be a bit invasive.
Ragworth can be toxic to livestock. They know not to eat it but if cut in hay or silage it can be accidentally eaten. However, quite large quantities need to be eaten for it to have it’s toxic effect. though horses seems particularly sensitive. Cinnabar moth caterpillar use this toxicity to protect themselves from being eaten. These brightly coloured caterpillar that only feed on ragworth. Ragworth has been used in folk medicine too. It’s visited by hoverflies and some some solitary bees.