Kildare Wildlife Watch: It might not be the prettiest, but groundsel is useful

With the Bog of Allen Nature Centre

Nuala Madigan

Reporter:

Nuala Madigan

Email:

bogs@ipcc.ie

Kildare Wildlife Watch: It might not be the prettiest, but groundsel is useful

Groundsel. Picture: Nuala Madigan

With the current public health advise to limit our contact with one another I have not been very far from my home over the past week.

Like everybody else, I've been keeping my distance from friends and family and only going to the shops for essential items.

To pass the time I have taken the opportunity to go for some short walks in my local area and one wildflower that, for me at least, seems to be everywhere is groundsel (Grúnlas as Gaeilge).

You will find this wildflower growing under hedges, in grassy margins, wasteground and it has even popped up between the concrete path and the edge of my house!

I am sure many of you might refer to this wildflower as a weed, but remember, weeds are simply wildflowers growing in the wrong place!

The flower is yellow but I don’t consider it a very attractive flower as it does not have long petals, preferring to grow in tight disc shaped florets that look a lot like tubes.

These florets will eventually burst open into a white fluffy seed heads that take advantage of the wind for dispersal of the seeds.

The plant can grow to a height of 40cm supported by a short tap root beneath the ground.

The leaves are dark green, long and have deeply lobed leaf edge.

Groundsel is a common wildflower in Ireland growing in every county, it is native and you will find it in flower all year long.

Groundsel may not be a pretty wildflower, in my opinion, but it does have a benefit to our communities.

The seeds of groundsel are an important food source for finches and sparrows and the leaves are eaten by the caterpillar of the cinnabar moth.

This wildflower is of particular importance in the winter as it flowers all year offering a food source even in the coldest of weather.

It is also said that groundsel was used as a remedy for headaches in traditional medicine years ago.

If you would like help identifying or to learn more about a wildlife species contact me at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on 045-860133 or bogs@ipcc.ie.