Botanical Resources


Flora of Ireland


Threatened Plants




by Robert Lloyd Praeger D.Sc.
Hodges, Figgis & Co.
Publishers to the University


IRELAND is a pleasant country for the botanist. It is true that its flora offers less variety than that of England, and still less than that of equal Continental areas. But this comparative paucity of species is richly compensated by the occurrence, often over a wide range, of plants of high interest and often of great beauty, whose analogues in England or Scotland are few and of very restricted distribution, while in the parts of Europe next adjoining they are almost all unknown. These peculiar features are due mainly to the position of Ireland on the extreme western edge of the Old World, a fact which in itself, for the student of European or Eurasian geography or botany, gives to this country a special interest.

Again, the extraordinary diversity of rocks in Ireland produces a corresponding variety of land-forms, with repercussions on the character of the flora and fauna. Geological diversity increases as one passes across Europe from east to west, from the interior of the great land-mass to its unstable oceanic edge. In Russia, areas far larger than Ireland are built up of a single type of rock, stretching featureless from horizon to horizon. Within the fretted coast-line of Ireland, almost every sedimentary rock which has gone to building up the crust of the Earth is represented, from Archtean to Neolithic, as well as many of igneous origin. The Irish mountains are exceeded in elevation by the loftiest summits in Wales and in Scotland, but they offer within a smaller area an equal variety of rock and consequently of scenery. The Scottish Highlands have their analogue in Donegal and Connemara, the Welsh Silurian mountains and the English Lake District find an echo in the Galtees and the Wicklow foot-hills, Devon is matched and surpassed by Kerry, as the limestone dints of Ingleborough are by the “pavements” of Clare and Galway. If Ireland lacks the Chalk downs, it has the remarkable Tertiary basalt plateau of the north-east with its characteristic flora, and if it has not got the Norfolk Broads it has a great and varied array of large lakes with many interesting plants on their shores and islands.

Another charm of Ireland is the freedom with which one may wander over its hills and plains. Seldom is one arrested by a notice forbidding access, and a friendly word will work wonders on ground preserved for game or kept for private purposes.

To the botanist studying the vegetation of a country as a whole, or the distribution within a country of any plant or group of plants, a Flora arranged on the usual plan, under which the species are enumerated according to their botanical affinities and the information relative to each is given under the plant's name, is the most convenient presentation of the subject. For Ireland as a whole two such works have been compiled since its flora became well known. In “Cybele Hibernica” (2nd ed., 1898, by N. COLGAN and R. W. SCULLY; 12s. 6d., now 4s. 6d.), under each plant its range is shown with reference to twelve Districts into which the country is divided, as in the previous edition of the same work; specially detailed treatment, geographical and historical, being awarded to the rarer species. In “Irish Topographical Botany,” compiled by the present writer (1901, 12s. 6d.), distribution is shown with reference to forty Divisions or Vice-counties of about the area of those used by H. C. Watson for Great Britain, and a more uniform treatment is awarded to the plants, whether rare or common, the latest known record alone being usually given, even in the case of rare species, with a brief indication of the scope of other records. No Supplement to “Cybele Hibernica” has as yet appeared. “Irish Topographical Botany” has been brought up to date or nearly so by the publication of three Supplements – the first for the period 1901-5 (Proc. Roy. Irish Acad., 26, Sect. B, 1906), the second for 1906-28 (ibid., 39, Sect. B, 1929), and the third for 1929-34 (ibid., 42, Sect. B, 1934). For shorter general accounts of the flora the five geographical volumes (“Ireland,” “Ulster,” “Leinster,” “Connaught,” “Munster,” reduced to 2s. 6d. per volume), issued in 1921-2 by the Cambridge University Press under the editorship of George FLETCHER, may be consulted. With information as to the distribution of the Higher Plants in Ireland, therefore, the student is well equipped.

But for the botanist resident in this country, or visiting it and finding himself here or there within it, a question very likely to arise is – What interesting plants grow in this or that neighbourhood, or in the vicinity of this or that town or hotel, or on this or that island or mountain or lake? It is to supply information on this basis that the present book is compiled, plants being arranged under localities instead of localities under plants. This scheme or treatment leads to a restriction as to the species dealt with, all those of general distribution being necessarily omitted (just as, conversely, the stations for them are omitted from the works previously mentioned). The commoner species, indeed, appear only when some plant association or other natural group requires for its description a list of the species occurring. In the Introduction, however (79207), opportunity is taken briefly to indicate the whole range, not only within Ireland but outside it, of a selection of the more interesting plants which are included in the Irish flora. At the end of the book a Census List of the Irish Flora (species, subspecies, and hybrids) is added, the distribution of each plant, native or naturalized, being shown according to the forty “Divisions” used in “Irish Topographical Botany.” This is desirable especially because the Irish range of many of the rarer species has been extended, and nomenclature has suffered many changes, since the publication of “Cybele Hibernica” and “Irish Topographical Botany.”

The book, therefore, aims at giving, with a different orientation, the bulk of the information supplied by the works mentioned, with the inclusion of the large amount of additional matter, published or unpublished, which has accumulated within the last thirty years or more. In “A Tourist's Flora of the West of Ireland” which appeared in 1909, the plan of the present work was used in the “Topographical Section.” But that book dealt with only eleven out of the forty Irish County-divisions, and within that area, as well as outside it, a good deal of botanical exploration has been done in recent years. So far as this western district is concerned, the matter in the “Tourist's Flora” has been included, revised and considerably enlarged. The works which have appeared dealing with the flora of restricted areas in Ireland are limited in number and of varied date, and all are arranged in the localities-underspecies plan of the typical Flora. A few of them are of recent date and of comprehensive scope, and form invaluable companions to the botanist visiting the districts with which they are concerned. This applies especially to COLGAN'S “Flora of the County Dublin” (1904, 12s. 6d.) and SCULLY'S “Flora of County Kerry” (1912, 12s. 6d.). HART'S “Flora of the County Donegal” (1898, 7s. 6d., now out of print) is somewhat earlier; STEWART and CORRY 'S “Flora of the North-east of Ireland” (1888, reduced price, 2s. 6d.), dealing with the counties of Down, Antrim, and Londonderry, has been brought up to date by the issue by the Belfast Naturalists' Field Club of two Supplements, the first in 1895, the second (a “Second Supplement and Summary”) in 1923. HART'S “Flora of Howth” (1887. o.p.) deals with a quite small but rich and interesting area near Dublin. The remaining Irish local or general Floras are of earlier date; the information which they supply is naturally incomplete, and all of importance has been incorporated in later books.

An inconvenience of the plan of the present work is that names of finders and other authorities for the records are of necessity omitted. This hiatus is met to some extent by a list of the principal workers at the Irish-flora, with a note of their chief publications, and the names and dates of their most important finds (78). Further information may be obtained from the works quoted above, as well as from the numerous subsequent papers and notes referred to in the pages which follow. Cross-references (by paragraph numbers) are inserted freely, to facilitate the bringing together of information relative to both plants and places.

In the matter of botanical nomenclature, the eleventh edition (1925) of the “London Catalogue of British Plants” is for convenience followed, save in the case of a few genera where revision has been lately carried out.

It has not been found possible to include in this book maps adequate for use over so wide an area as Ireland, but six of the most important districts – northern Donegal, eastern Antrim, the Sligo neighbourhood, western Galway – Mayo, the Wicklow mountain region, and southern Kerry – are illustrated by excerpts from Messrs. Bartholomew's quarter-inch map. For field work, the one-inch map of the Ordnance Survey (contoured edition) is indispensable. For more general purposes the beautiful contour-coloured half-inch Ordnance map, and the already quoted similar quarter-inch map issued by Messrs. Bartholomew, supply all that is required.

All that I have to say at the conclusion of fifty years' field-work in Ireland, during which I have explored the flora of every county, of every important mountain-range, lake, river, and island, is embodied in condensed form in the present work. The last four seasons have been devoted to study of those areas and those plants which a general survey of the field of work showed to be most in need of further investigation. So while much remains to be done by future generations of field botanists, it is hoped that the present account will be found to offer a tolerably balanced view of the flora of Ireland as it is at present known. The claims of ecology as contrasted with purely floristic work have been recognized, and an endeavour has been made all through to correlate vegetation with geography and geology. The human element in local botany has also been kept in view, and in the topographical notes certain non-botanical features of the land, .such as its more important antiquities, have not been altogether ignored.

As to the illustrations, their chief value lies in the series of excellent photographs of rare native plants in the field taken by Mr. R. J. Welch during visits with me to many places, and reproduced here. For these and some others illustrating habitat and scenery my best thanks are due to him.

For the loan of blocks illustrating geographical features I am indebted to the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press; for help in various directions thanks are tendered to Dr. R. W. Scully and Messrs. J. P. Brunker, A. Farrington, T. Hallissy, R. A. Phillips, A. W. Stelfox, and a number of other friends.

As the book is intended for use in the field as much as in the study, it has been made as portable and compact as possible.

R. Ll. P.
November, 1934.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION – Geological history – Topography – Climate ... parts 1 to 26

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION – General History of the Flora – The Atlantic Flora – British and Irish Floras compared – Distribution of Plants within Ireland – Woodland – Grassland – Peat Bog – Marshes – Lakes – Calcicole and Calcifuge Flora – Coasts – Islands – Mountains – Human Influence – Botanical Subdivision of Ireland – Workers at the Irish Flora – Rare or Interesting Plants – Unverified Records ... Parts 27 to 219

TOPOGRAPHICAL PART – Entering Ireland – Crossing Ireland – Dublin – Kildare – Central Plain – Offaly – Leix – Tipperary – Kilkenny – Carlow – Wicklow – Wexford – South-east Coast – Waterford – Cork – Kerry – Cork Highlands – Shannon Estuary – Limerick – Clare – Galway – Galway-Mayo Limestones – Roscommon – Lough Ree – Mayo – Galway – Mayo Highlands and Islands – Sligo – Leitrim – Fermanagh – Tyrone – Donegal – Londonderry – Basaltic Plateau – Antrim – North-east Silurian Area – Down – Armagh – Monaghan – Cavan – Longford – Westmeath – Meath – Louth 227

INDEX ... .540