03 Dec 2021

Kildare’s Wildlife Watch: The ragged robin is a friend to butterflies and bumblebees

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare’s Wildlife Watch: The ragged robin is a friend to butterflies and bumblebees

Ragged robin. Picture: Nuala Madigan

Many of our communities have wetland areas including lakes, canals, garden ponds and even wet ground in grasslands.

It is in these locations where you will find this weeks species, ragged robin (lus síoda as Gaeilge). This is a native wildflower and I can only presume it gets its name from the ragged nature of its pretty, pink deeply-divided star-shaped petals.

This wildflower blooms each year from late May until August so there is plenty of opportunity to watch for it in your community over the coming weeks.

The petals can sometimes be white but in most cases they are pink. Ragged robin is an impressive wildflower that stands up to 50cm tall. The leaves that grow close to the ground are oval in shape and arranged opposite one another. Those leaves located along the stem of the plant are narrow and spear-shaped. All leaves are toothless on ragged robin — that is, they have smooth edges.

Towards the top of the plant, the stems become leafless and they begin to branch. The stems are also covered in hairs and therefore ragged robin can be rough to the touch.

Although a native plant, ragged robin is not as common as it once was as we have improved much of Ireland’s wet grassland areas through drainage.

This wildflower is very important for pollinators with a variety of bumblebee and butterfly species benefitting from its presence in our communities.

It is actually said the flowers of ragged robin are characterised by ‘pollination syndrome’. From what I have read, pollination syndrome identifies particular traits on plants that have specifically evolved to best suit pollinators. For example the colour of the petals of ragged robin and their sweet scent is an adaption of the plant to attract butterflies. The butterfly benefits with a source of food, but by ragged robin evolving to attract butterflies, it benefits by being pollinated thus being able to reproduce. Will you identify ragged robin in your local area this week?

If you would like help identifying or to learn more about a wildlife species contact me via e-mail

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