Native Plants of Ireland
Ireland’s native plant population is comparatively small because Ireland is not a large country and because it was covered with glaciers until 13,000 years ago. Many of the native species are in decline or have disappeared for a number of reasons. Among them are changes in farm practices, overgrazing and the proliferation of housing developments and golf courses.
The alpine bistort grows in meadows and along riverbanks and lakesides. The slender plant grows up to about 20 inches tall and has a column with tiny flowers, usually pink or white. It flowers from late July into early August. Underneath the flowers are pink or purple bulbs that allow the plant to reproduce asexually, though the plant also reproduces through flowers and seeds. The small bulbs drop off the plant and take root. Alpine bistort has shiny leaves that grow near the base of the plant. The roots and leaves are edible.
Autumn crocus, sometimes called naked lady because the flower stem emerges from the ground before the plant forms leaves has pink, white, purple or lavender flowers that bloom in the fall, hence its name. The flowers are 5-7 inches tall and 2 inches across. Leaves are formed after the flowers have bloomed. There are more than 40 species of autumn crocus. They are only distantly related to the crocuses of the iris family. Colchicine, a poisonous compound that causes damage to chromosomes and affects cell division is derived from autumn crocus.
This culinary herb grows to about 2 feet tall and flowers from July to October. The flowers range from lilac to white in color and grow in clusters at the very ends of the branches and stems of the plant. The aromatic leaves of the plant slightly resemble thyme leaves. Basil thyme has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Galen, a Greek doctor writing in the second century AD claimed that fresh leaves applied to the skin will cure bruising.
Sea Peas don’t flower until they are 3 years old. After that, each plant may have 7 to 9 flowers. Flowering occurs between late May and the beginning of August. The leaves are green and waxy, and the plant produces twining tendrils. The name sea pea was given to the plant because it produces pods after it’s pollinated. The pods can float in the sea and remain viable for 5 years. The plant is rare and protected in the United Kingdom where it is designated as nationally scarce. Sea pea pods contain an acid that can cause paralysis.