Clovers and shamrocks may be the most recognizable plants in Ireland, but other flowers thrive on the Emerald Isle. In fact, blooms are a significant part of the country’s landscape and lore. Here are 12 Irish flowers that are worthy of your attention.
1. Bog rosemary
Bog rosemary is a wildflower that is native to Ireland, and found mainly in the center of the country. It is extremely small, and, considering its height, easy to miss amid the surrounding moss. Bog rosemary flowers bloom in early May, and by June they have usually settled into a pale pink color.
2. Easter lily
The Easter lily is a symbol of peace in Ireland. The flower’s distinctive shape symbolizes unity, equality, and prosperity for all Irish people. Its colors, which are the same as those of the Irish flag, are also symbolic. The green stem represents the ancient Celtic people, the orange signifies Ireland’s Protestant settlers, and the white symbolizes the peace and respect between the two.
Many Irish wear a lily-shaped badge during the Easter season to remember those who died during an uprising in 1916.
3. Sheep’s bit
Sheep’s bit is a scrappy purple flower similar to the Scottish thistle but with rounder heads and thinner leaves. The flowers thrive in dry, grassy locations, bloom between May and September, and grow in large numbers. They are easily identified by the round flowers that are a mix of blue and purple.
4. Wild cherry
Wild cherry trees are some of the most beautiful trees found in Ireland. Two different species of native wild cherry are found on the Emerald Isle: Prunus avium and Prunus padus. Prunus avium can be found in hedgerows and woodlands throughout Ireland, whereas Prunus padus, which is more rare, grows in the Midlands and the west in limestone areas. Though the trees look different, the flowers each produces are beautiful regardless of whether they are on the tree’s branches or the ground.
5. Spring squill
Spring squill, known as “sciolla earraigh” to the Irish, is a member of the Asparagaceae family. These relatively small perennial flowers thrive best in dry, short, and coastal grounds. Native to Ireland, spring squill is commonly found growing in groups (often in the spring) and possess a beautiful pale blue color.
Poppies are distinctive from their papery red petals and black center. The flowers grew on battlefields throughout Europe during World War I and, thus, are worn to remember those who died. Wearing a poppy can be interpreted as a political statement; some view it as being analogous to advocating war, which has caused heated debates about the appropriateness of wearing them — notably by Irish athletes.
7. White clover
White clovers grow freely along the Irish countryside and are used as a cover crop. Their trefoil leaves attract bees, butterflies, and mice. They bloom from May to October.
There is more to daisies than their cheerful appearance. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley described the daisy as “that constellated flower that never sets.” These hardy little plants grow as wildflowers on Ireland’s rugged grasslands. Daisies have a long lifespan, too, growing from March to October.
Covering the countryside by the time May rolls around, buttercups are a harbinger of the calendar’s warmer months. Their rapid growth is a result of a robust root system. Many varieties native to Ireland can be identified by turning over the flower to inspect their petals for the number of sepals they have. The name “buttercup” derives from the tiny cup-shaped scales that hold the flower’s nectar.
Ragwort is a foe to those who suffer from allergies, and can cause liver damage to horses and livestock, but are beloved by bees and butterflies, and help the ecosystem. The bright yellow wildflowers, which look like the scrappy cousin of the daisy, blanket the Irish countryside from June to November. According to ancient lore, ragwort transported fairies on the flower’s cushiony center.
11. Early dog violet
Early dog violet has a regal purple flower that balances on a dainty stem. It gets the name “early” from the fact it grows as early as March, whereas other violets bloom in April. Early dog violets are a favorite of butterflies, and are a key food source for five different varieties: pearl-bordered fritillary, small pearl-bordered fritillary, high brown fritillary, silver-washed fritillary, and dark green fritillary.
The primrose is another early spring wildflower, with delicate leaves and a powerful, fragrant scent. It is advisable not to pick one up, though, since it will immediately wilt. According to Celtic beliefs, the primrose is sacred and the key to heaven. Irish people commonly placed it in doorways as a signal to fairies to keep their homes safe.