These words by Joyce are wonderful, rivers are amazing habitats and the river bank and edge are also home to some beautiful and strange plants and wildflowers; as well as insects, mammals and birds. The rushing Cladagh river rising into Cladagh Glen past Marble Arch Geopark is an amazing sight; the Bluebells in May can stretch as far as the eye can see. Carpeting the undergrowth in a thick blanket of lilac light. I look forward to showing you that! It’s an ancient ash woodland and a nature reserve, holding beautiful seasonal delights; especially the wildflowers.
We were greeted by a tapestry of wild garlic, primrose and the remains of lesser yellow celandine. The smell and the sound of the river was a treat to the senses and the stress seems to exit as fast as the river was gushing. Spring was definitely all around. As we walked along the river, exploring its banks, we were drawn to a strange shaped bloom rising from the earth. We were delighted to see the very rare parasitic plant, Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria)! In Irish it is Slánu fiacal which means tooth healer. The flowers themselves look like molars and although it would seem to suggest it was used for healing toothache, I couldn’t find any studies or evidence to suggest this – maybe you have? It’s such an interesting plant because unlike most plants it has no leaves and so no chlorophyll (necessary for photosynthesis) and so gains its nutrients by parasitizing Hazel and Alder. Sucking the life it needs for its brief appearance in early spring. It does give back though, when the flowers open, bumblebees feed and forage on them and ants are attracted to eat and distribute the seeds. Pollination and replication. It grows in woodland habitat with moist rich soil. I read an interesting article about Toothwort in The Guardian about how Charles Darwin came to the realisation that its stems had to exude water after it first takes in the dissolved sugars and minerals – it can only keep feeding if it released the water; Darwin noticed that the soil around it was always wet. Very interesting! I confess that my knowledge of botany is very restricted but I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge as it is so fascinating! If anyone knows any interesting Toothwort facts then please enter them into the comments section. It was absolutely brilliant to see this strange and amazing plant!
We saw some other beautiful flowers too. Top left to bottom right – Primrose, Common Dog-Violet, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage and Ramsons.
I look forward to going back to Cladagh Geln in late spring to see the Bluebells, the bobbing Dipper and in late summer the wonderful silver-washed Fritillary butterfly. Many people who live in Fermanagh (and its many worldwide visitors) go for long walks from Marble Arch Geopark along the ancient ash woodland, past the roaring cascades and into the beautiful valley of Cladagh Glen, if you haven’t done it yet, you really are missing out!! If you’ve been, I’d love to know what your favourite part is!
I hope everyone is having a great week. Over the last week, I’ve turned a teenager (moods and all) and appeared on the front cover of our regional Wildlife Trusts newsletter! I got a microscope for my birthday and am having a fabulous time looking through all my treasures, bones, stones and marine ‘debris’. It’s also Autism Awareness month and I’m trying to write another blog on my experiences, I hope to finish it soon, although I’m not sure I’ll publish it at all! I hear the sun is going to shine for the rest of the week so I’ll be getting out to see what other Wild delights I can find.
Thanks for reading and for all your continued support!