Botany of the Burren & the Aran Islands

The extreme beauty and diversity of the wildflowers of the Burren have fascinated naturalists for centuries, with the first plant records from the area published in 1650.

Why is the Burren flora so special?

Unique features of the Burren environment and its flora:

1. The mild winter temperature is ideal for the survival of Mediterranean species like Bloody cranesbill (Geranium sangunium) and the Dense Flowered orchid (Irish orchid) (Neotinea maculate)

2. Open rocky landscape, shallow soils and excellent drainage, physically resembles tundra-like conditions, allowing Arctic-Alpines like Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) to flourish

Arctic-Alpine and Mediterranean plants
3. One of the striking features of the Burren flora is the combination of species from normally diverging habitats of Arctic-Alpine and Mediterranean type growing side by side here in the Burren

Mixture of species
4. Acid loving plants like heathers combine with calcareous (lime loving) plants like Harebells… adding to this great diversity

Abundance of commonly occurring species
5. The profusion of commonly occurring plants found in the Burren adds to its glory

Orchids of the Burren
6. The Burren holds the most diversity of wild orchids within any one place in Ireland
(27 of the 31 native orchids found in Ireland)

Other interesting features of the Burren flora

Adding to the intriguing nature of the Burren flora is the occurrence of typical woodland plants like Primrose and Wood Anemone growing out in the open and sea shore plants like Sea Plantain found on inland hilltops


Special Plants limited to the Burren and the Aran Islands only
There are a small number of plants that occur nowhere else in Ireland apart from the Burren and the Aran Islands, these are Hoary Rock-rose ( Helianthemum oelandicum spp piloselloides), the sea -lavender (Limonium recurvum spp.pseudotranswallianum) , purple milk vetch (Astragulus danicus) and Arctic sandwort (Arenaria norvegica spp.norevica). The later species was considered to be extinct in Ireland up until its recent rediscovery in 2008 in the Burren after an absence of 47 years.

Unique on a world scale
It is the unique combination of all these plant communities that are found within this small limestone area that makes the Burren a truly magnificent and unique botanical paradise.

Nature Conservation
I hope that in sharing my love for the Burren and its native flora it will bring joy and wonder to others and in so doing highlight the special nature of this floral landscape and the importance of its conservation for future generations.



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