I am linking in a day late with Gail at Clay and Limestone for Wild Flower Wednesday.
This sign was spotted in Ballyvaughan in County Clare, Ireland. Balyvaughan is a great place to stay to explore the Burren. The name, Burren derives from the Irish word boireann which means rocky and this place certainly is rocky. It is a vast limestone pavement which at first glance looks quite arid. But everywhere there are cracks and fissures and small pastures with the most wonderful wild flowers.
It is a unique habitat because there are Mediterranean, Arctic and Alpine plants all growing together. First of all, you have the effect of the Gulf Stream warming the air along the West coast here. Secondly, the limestone itself acts like a vast storage heater retaining the heat of the summer sun into the winter. Then there is the quality of the light reflected from the limestone. This suits the Alpine plants.
I will start with the most showy of the alpines which grows in carpets in some areas. It is the irresitible Spring Gentian, Gentiana verna which is such an incredible shade of blue. The last time I saw gentians growing like this was in Switzerland.
Another Alpine is the Spring Sandwort, Minuartia verna which I believe is quite rare.
Mountain Avens, Dryas octopetala is another speciality of the Burren. It is a native of the Artic and here it mingles with Mediterranean plants.
There are plenty of Orchids on the Burren, when we were there Early Purples were everywhere. We have these in our woods in Suffolk, but not in the abundance you see here.
Here are some more beauties.
The lovely Common Milkwort has exquisite flowers in the same astonishing blue as the gentians. The little pink Lousewort is an acid soil-loving plant but survives in pockets of peat on the limestone. For foliage I love the little Rusty-back Fern or the Silver Weed. The Thrift and Sea Campion are a lovely feature of the coast, but so were the winds that took your breath away. Some days you had to be a real enthusiast to go looking for flowers, specially on the coast.
This is a very ancient land and although it looks as if it must have been erosion which made such a bare landscape, it was once heavily populated and the trees were removed by people living here about 5,000 years ago.There are about 500 ancient hill forts in the Burren. There is a wonderful neolithic portal tomb at Poulnabrone which contained human remains and artefacts which have been analysed to give a fascinating insight to the lives of these people.
In the nineteenth century this area became depopulated by the potato famine which hit this part of Ireland badly. About 1 million people died in Ireland when the potato blight struck in successive years. What we didn’t learn at school was that the English Prime Minister, Lord John Russell had a deliberate policy of laissez-faire to protect free trade. People were allowed to starve whilst grain and meat were exported to England. It was even suggested that it was Divine Providence that people should starve. It amounted to genocide. It was out of the question to give people food for nothing, so pointless projects were devised like building unwanted walls up steep hills. Starving men were paid a pittance for this work; many died whilst they were doing it. These walls are a grim reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. In the next picture you can see the wall on the left, running up the hill.
An interest in flowers was obviously shared by stone masons in the twelfth century here. The Abbey at Corcomroe has carvings of flowers on the corbels which are some of the earliest depictions of flowers in a church. They are thought to be harebells which grow in the surrounding countryside.
The legend says that the stone mason had to be put to death when he had finished so that he would never be able to carve anything so beautiful anywhere else.
Thank you for hosting this lovely meme Gail. Why don’ t you join in on the last Wednesday of the month and share the wildflowers you are enjoying in your part of the world?