In search of Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) in the Burren, Co Clare.
Field work for the rare/threatened plants of the Burren 2023 has begun. Thanks to part funding from the Clare Local Biodiversity action fund (NPWS and Clare COCO) I have been surveying the rare threatened and characteristic plants of the Burren over the last number of years. Both my reports for 2021 and 2022 are available for viewing on my website using the following links
This year started off with a visit to a lush and undisturbed area of hazel woodland in the high Burren. Together with Paul Murphy (ecologist), Cillian Roden (ecologist and botanist) and Sabina Springer (artist and biologist) we explored this beautiful habitat. Lush mosses, lichens and liverworts dangled form hazel trees. Tiny leaves of wild strawberry, ground ivy, bluebells and pignut lay in waiting for warmer days. Lesser celandine and wood anemones coloured the woodland floor.
A personal highlight was the sight of large clusters of pale pink toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) springing up from the base of hazel trees. Fascinating and strangely beautiful, this parasitic plant is without chlorophyll relying on roots of trees for energy and life.
Hazel woodlands of this calibre are biodiversity hot spots within the Burren. The interlinks between hazel woodlands and these rich communities of mosses, lichens, liverworts and fungi is relatively understudied. More baseline research is required to enhance our knowledge and fully inform our approach to the conservation measures required to protect these fragile environments.
For now it is important to respect and honour these biological treasures of the Burren just like our ancestors before us who regarded hazel trees as the ‘nobles of the wood’ or the Airig Fedo.
If you would like to read more about toothwort https://burrenbotanist.ie/toothwort/