At last! Spring has taken hold with gusto, and all around, nature is getting busy. The lengthening days and warmer temperatures have cajoled the delicate spring wildflowers from their winter slumber to brighten the hedgerows and the moods of all who walk alongside them. These are just five of the native beauties that the keen-eyed rambler will meet while strolling in the crisp spring air around Westport. All of the photos were taken on one hour’s walk along the backroads and boreens just two miles out of town!
5 Wildflowers To Find In Westport’s Hedgerows Right Now
Bouncing along beside you as you explore highways and byways of Westport’s hinterland from April to June are the much-loved purple wildflowers, common dog violets. Familiar and loyal, like loveable Labradors, they smile up at you, tongue hanging out. This tongue, the flower’s lower middle petal, bears dark veins that lead into the flower as the petal colour changes to white, like landing lights for pollinating bumblebees, attracted by the violet’s colour. The landing strip and irresistible colour are vital for pollination, as the lilliputian common dog violet emits no scent to lure the passing bees.
Happily, these little jewels often return a second time to flower again from August to September.
Offering up bright-yellow colour pops along our hedgerows are cheerful clumps of celandine, announcing the longer days like sunny jazz hands. One of the first flowers to raise its head every spring, celandine shines in woods, by rivers, in hedgerows and along roadsides from February right the way through to May. Its constellations of yellow stars sit above a bed of deep-green heart-shaped leaves, opening in sunshine and closing in overcast skies and at night.
Nectar hungry insects help its pollination in early spring, but this determined soul hedges its bets, using a second method to spread in early summer, when it sheds tiny little tubers from its leaf bases. Clever little thing.
Celandine was once known by the rather less attractive name Pilewort. Yep, you guessed it, it had a reputation for curing haemorrhoids.
Though it’s delicate white petals look like five badly drawn hearts sown together at their bases, stitchwort’s name is not a reference to petal quilting; it alludes to the plant’s healing qualities – it was once valued as a cure for ‘stitches and pains in the side’.
You can spot these little beauties along roadside hedgerows and woodland, nodding gently on dainty stems, catching the light from April to June.
After its snow-white display fades, it has a surprising party trick. Horticulturalist Alys Fowler writes: “The real fun is not when it’s in flower, but when it sets seed. Stitchwort has an extraordinary seed dispersal mechanism, firing off its seed to gain new ground. If you disturb a large patch, the seed goes off like fireworks making a pop. This never fails to impress small children.” And big ones!
Few things gladden the heart more than the sight of a carpet of bluebells in the dappled light of a wood. The native is a much more delicate affair than the burly, flamboyant Spanish newcomer so often sold in supermarkets. Its head nods demurely, fringed by a single line of deep violet-blue bells along its underside. The Spaniard’s head stands proudly upright, and its bells swing around the full body of the stem. The native is sweetly scented, while the guest has barely any smell at all.
Unfortunately, our wild bluebells crossbreed readily with the imported Spanish plant, and concern is growing that hybridisation could threaten their genetic integrity. Although bluebells favour native broadleaved woodland, they can also be found in hedgerows; watch out for localised swathes as you ramble around Westport’s boreens.
Wood anemones daintily wave their white handkerchiefs, blousily beckoning passersby to admire their fragile display from March to May. Their flexible stems let their single flower-heads nod and bend freely with the wind, dancing in unison and giving rise to their Irish name, Lus na gaoithe (Windflower). Another name, Smell fox, owes its origins to the leaves’ musky smell.
These pretty perennials grow to 15cm and are perfectly at home in Westport’s deciduous woodlands and the hedgerows and banks that line them. Their poppyish flowers bloom on slender stems above a jungle of bright green leaves, daily following the sun’s course across the sky. Eventually, the leaves of the trees above emerge to shade the anemones and send them back to sleep for another year. Dreamy.