Hairy bitter-cress. Picture: Nuala Madigan
As we are all asked to stay at home to support both our country and our health care professional tackle Covid 19 I decided not to go further than my back garden in search of a species for this week.
I have observed starlings, magpies, rooks and wood pigeon in the garden — however, none of them stayed still long enough for me to get a picture!
So I turned to the the variety of wildflowers, that some would refer to as weeds, that I have growing in my small vegetable patch at the back of the garden.
The species I found was hairy bitter-cress (searbh-bhiolar giobach as Gaelige). Using a website, www.wildflowersofireland.net, I had to double check I had this species identified correctly as there is a second species that looks very similar, wavy bitter-cress.
One feature that helps you tell the difference between these two similar species is the number of stamen (the male reproductive parts of the flower) found within the centre of the flower.
This week’s species, hairy bitter-cress has four stamen, while if I had found wavy bitter-cress in my garden I would have counted six stamen within the flower.
The leaves of hairy bitter-cress form a rosette close to the surface while the four-petal, small, white flowers grow in clusters held on upright stems aproximately 30cm in height.
Surrounding the flowers, you will also notice reddish/purple tubes that are similar in height to the flowers. These are seed-pods.
When the seeds are ready to be dispersed, these pods will curl and then, with a gentle touch, the pods will burst open, scattering the seeds up to one metre away.
In nature this method of seed dispersal is known as rapid plant movement and it takes no more than one second to complete.
This week, see if can you find hairy bitter-cress in your garden. Perhaps, maybe, you will find wavy bitter-cress. Remember to check the number of stamen to help you identify between the species.
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 email email@example.com.