Occasional Papers No. 13

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The Flora of County Cavan (2001)

Paddy A. Reilly

Occasional Papers No. 13 : pp 177

publication date 2001


The many references and records from the literature used in this work are a testament to Cavan’s place in the world of botany. Cavan is notable for two plants, a moss and a horsetail, that were named and described for the first time from specimens gathered in the county. In 1803 Dr Robert Scott, Professor of Botany at Trinity College Dublin, found a moss ‘on the banks of a rivulet on the mountains near Swanlinbar in argillaceous soil’, which when examined proved to be new to science. Dicranum scottianum was the name given to it by Dawson Turner in his honour. Scott published this name in an illustrated paper in Transactions of the Dublin Society (1803) and received a premium award from the Society ‘granted for the discovery of native plants of Ireland not hitherto described by any Botanic writers’ (Scott, 1803; Nelson, 1997). In 1984 Dr Alan Willmot, a visiting British botanist, found an unusual horsetail ‘on a roadside bank of tall herbs and bushes near Black River north of Dowra’. It proved to be a new hybrid between Equisetum fluviatile L. and Equisetum telmateia Ehrh. A description of the plant was published by Dr C.N. Page of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and it was named Equisetum ×willmotii (Page, 1995). While Professor Scott’s moss has been found in many other places, Willmot’s horsetail is unique to County Cavan. It has not been found anywhere else. Isolectotypes are in the Herbarium of the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin.


In this account I have aggregated all references to and records of the Cavan flora, known to me, and added my own observations and records to those of present and former workers. Contributors are named and brief biographies given. The sources of records, annotations and herbarium specimens from 1726 to the present are in the appendices and the species list. The earliest records were extracted from floras published between 1726 to 1898 and from papers published in journals including the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. For the later period, publications in Irish Naturalist (1892-1925), Irish Naturalist’s Journal (1925 to 1999), Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy and Watsonia (Journal of the Botanical Society of the British Isles) were perused. The National Herbarium at Glasnevin, Dublin and the Herbarium at Trinity College, Dublin were also searched. Contemporary contributors are usually members of the BSBI (Botanical Society of the British Isles) whose objective is the study of the flora of Great Britain and Ireland as a unit in terms of frequency and distribution of species.

To study and comment on the development of the flora, some knowledge of the county’s geology, history and population changes is useful. In addition to explaining the presence or absence of plants, such information gives added interest to botanical explorations. To walk the hills and fields and not be aware of their underlying geology, nor to observe and wonder at the many impressive monuments left by early inhabitants, would be an enriching opportunity lost. For these reasons references will be found in the text to the geology of the county, its history, population statistics, ancient forests, and the weather.

A county flora is dynamic, evolving with land-use and management changes. This work is therefore not complete - no flora is. Its only claim is to present the results of fifteen years searching and researching by myself and my botanical friends. I hope it will be regarded as a stage in a journey of endeavour; to find new county records and rediscover old ones. I also hope, with confidence, that others will experience a personal pleasure walking around this beautiful county and meeting its hospitable and friendly people.

Flora of County Cavan
- links to pdf files

Introductory chapters (Pages 1-31)

Species accounts (pages 32-125)

Appendices and Index (pages 129-175)