Wildflowers on Benevenagh

Early Autumn

Himalayan Knotweed


An imported perennial horror which was fancied as an interesting specimen by Victorian gardeners. It grows on ugly bamboo-like stalks to a height of 2 m with a massive rhizome system and thrives on attempts to dig it up. It can establish itself and spread from a tiny fingernail-sized rhizome and chokes all plants in its path. It has no redeeming features, not even its scented flowers which perfume the 2000 square metres which grow around our house. It is not quite as widespread across Northern Ireland as Japanese Knotweed but is as equally damaging to local flora.

One thing you can say for this plant though - cows love it! In fact the one thing that slows its spread around here is bovine greed.
Himalayan Knotweed Persicaria wallichii
An intermediate rocket Barbarea intermedia

Intermediate Yellow Rocket


A native biennial which is also known as medium-flowered winter cress. It is one of several rockets growing on the mountain and has the familiar-shaped leaves which can be eaten as salad. It is establishing itself where we have managed to eradicate the plague of Himalayan Knotweed.

Bell Heather


A small native shrub which is one of the common heathers on the mountain. Its bright clusters of bell-like flowers are a joy for the local insects.

Once it is a few hundred years dead, it tends to be dug up around here and used as fuel.
Bellheather
Erica cinerea
Bright eyes Euphrasia scottica

Eyebright


This tiny native annual is well-named with its strikingly beautiful little face. Benevenagh is the only place in the north-west where this variety grows - indeed it is not widely spread across Northern Ireland, preferring a few selected mountainous locations. It loves banks and stony tracks.

Silverweed


A native perennial widespread on the mountain paths and banks. When the Benevenagh breezes rustle its leaves, their soft silver undersides shimmer and flash. Tea made from the leaves is said to help treat diarrhoea and piles.
Silverweed Potentilla anserina
Redshank
Polygonum persicaria

Redshank


A very common native perennial which is the subject of folklore and superstition. The leaves have dark spots and blotches which, depending on the storyteller's need to impress, were caused by the blood of Christ, being nipped by the Virgin Mary or grabbed by the devil.

Take your pick but isn't it funny how often the devil appears in these stories?

Wild Thyme


When Shakespeare's Oberon said 'I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows', he could have been referring to Arnold's bank on Benevenagh where this lovely tiny native shrub grows. Celtic lovesong writers also wax obliquely lyrical about it, so perhaps it is an aphrodisiac as well as a flavouring herb.
Wild Thyme
Thymus polytrichus
Lesser Knapweed Centaurea nigra

Lesser Knapweed


A widespread native perennial of the lower mountain tracks. It grows to 50 cm and the flowerheads turn dark brown, making them an eye-catching addition to winter flower arrangements.

The plant can be used to treat bruises and wounds.

Heather or Ling


A native shrub of the acid soils on the mountain. This plant has been a useful friend of man for centuries, being used for bedding (animal and human), thatch, baskets and dyes. It was also used dried as fuel, presumably together with the turf on which it can be found.

Some people even used it to flavour beer.
Heather or Ling
Calluna vulgaris
Smooth Hawk's-Beard
Crepis capillaris

Smooth Hawk's-Beard


A native annual which is very widespread on grass, wasteland, drystone walls and banks. When the chill autumn winds start to cut back the undergrowth, this is a bright reminder of summer past. It is one of several wildflowers with 'hawk' in its name, with petal edges similar to the wingtip feathers of the buzzards soaring overhead.

Yarrow


A common native perennial with healing properties.
From the time of Achilles yarrow has been used in the treatment of wounds made by iron weapons.

As the hero and his comrades crossed the wine-dark sea clasping bronze spears, the yarrow seemed to be able to cope with all kinds of metals.

Its flowers range from pink to deep purple.
The healer Achillea millefolium
Lesser Spearwort
Ranunculus flammula

Lesser Spearwort


A common native perennial which was used (to what effect, unknown) to treat plague sores. The root, when pounded and applied to the skin in limpet shells, produced a blistering which was thought to extract the 'humours' of the disease.
The plant is poisonous.

 
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