Wildflowers on Benevenagh


Early Spring

Snowdrop

A naturalised perennial which is a welcome sight on banks and verges in January - the 'Flower of Hope'. This is the 'escaped' garden variety which nods in profusion outside old farmsteads on the mountain.

It is a reminder of the lovely custom in the Northern Ireland countryside of planting spring bulbs along the roadsides, laneways and drystone walls to welcome visitors and provide a pleasant view from the house.
Snowdrops
Galanthus nivalis
Dandelion
Primula vulgaris

Primrose

A native perennial which populates the banks and turns the sunward-facing sheughs on the mountain yellow. It likes to hide amongst dead grass blades which give some protection from the harsh winds early in the year. Its name is derived from prima rosa - first rose.

The primrose is a protected species in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985.

Red Deadnettle

An annual weed which prospers in the hedgerows from early spring until the first autumn frosts cut it down.
Snowdrops
Lamium purpureum
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion

A native perennial which is not particularly welcome in gardens or pathways, with its massive taproots and bountiful seedheads. When the flower opens in full sunshine, it looks very pretty on the mountain tracks.

The leaves can be eaten in salads, the roots can be roasted and made into an unlikely-sounding coffee and the plant's diuretic property is said to clear up urinary problems.

The French may not agree with this last point, as one of their names for it is 'pis-en-lit'.

Creeping or Slender Speedwell

This creeping perennial is the earliest of the pretty speedwells and forms huge mats of gleaming flowers in the shady parts of the drystone walls and ditches.
Slender speedwell
Veronica filiformis
Wavy Bittercress Cardamine flexuosa

Wavy Bittercress

A common annual weed which was probably the inspiration for the Roman ballista. When it is touched, it catapults its ripe seeds as far as it can, making sure that it colonises as much territory as possible.

This strategem works very well because unless you remove the plant early it will spread everywhere, simply because it releases all it seeds when it is pulled out of the ground.

Gorse or - locally - Whin

A common shrub of heath and banks, turning large swathes of the mountain yellow in the spring. It has quite sharp thorns and sheep often find hiding places in groups of whin.

 Local farmers say that a good whin hedge is better than any fence because nothing will get through.

You can tell the time of the year by how far up the mountain the whin is flowering.
A bit of gorse Ulex europaeus
Dandelion
Ranunculus ficaria

Lesser Celandine

A native perennial which grows on banks in large mats and opens its starry flowers wide to the sun. Its bulbous roots were widely used in the past to create an infusion for the treatment of haemorrhoids.

Barren Strawberry

A common native perennial which hides in the banks along mountain lanes, opening its widely-spaced little petals to the sun. Unfortunately, as its name suggests, this is all it produces.
Snowdrops
Potentilla sterilis
Dandelion
Narcissus

Daffodil

This beautiful old-fashioned escapee is known locally as an old double daffodil and was one of the spring flowers planted outside farmhouses.

It still graces many ruins and modern farmhouses, fluttering and dancing in the breeze and is much more subtle than its showy modern cousins.

Common Dog Violet

A native perennial which populates the sunny banks facing south on the mountain, growing in small and large clumps.
Dog Violet
Viola riviniana
Blackthorn
Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn

This widespread native shrub produces its lovely flowers before its leaves and in a sunny spring bathes the bare mountain hedgerows in blossom.

Gnarled blackthorn stems have long been used to make walking sticks and at least one well known local teddy boy can be seen leaning on his intricate blackthorn walking aid, gazing around Market Street.

The juicy-looking fruits are bitter and are used to make sloe gin or jelly. It has been reliably reported that sloe gin is still used to flavour poteen. And, of course, fairies used the thorns as spears.

 
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