Wild Plants

 Bush Vetch in graveyard of Muckross Abbey, Killarney

What are Wild Plants?

Wild plants include flowers, grasses, lichens, fungi, shrubs and trees that grow with little or no human help or interference. They have not been intentionally planted by human hands. Many of the smaller wild plants are usually dismissed as 'weeds', and someone once said that weeds are flowers growing in the wrong place! Gardeners prefer to keep their flowerbeds without 'weeds' because they are the preserve of plants that the gardener specifically chooses. While wild plants can be found anywhere, even in the best kept gardens, usually, they are best viewed in more wild places such as waste places, fields and meadows, hedgeows, wetlands, hill and mountain areas and in coastal areas.

Yellow Iris and other wild plants growing in wetland beside Corrib, Co. Galway    

Intrinsic Value of Wild Plants

First of all, wild plants are God's creation, and therefore have intrinsic value. For the writers of scripture, for many of the early Christian fathers, and for St. Francis, wild plants point beyond themselves to God their Creator and God reveals Himself through them. This does not take away from the fact that they are beautiful in and of themselves, and for those blessed enough to see their beauty, wild plants provide endless hours of pleasure.

Greater Periwinkle in road-side hedge, Co. Tipperary 

Importance of Wild Plants to Humans

Wild plants are part of nature's biodiversity. They provide the variety of food needed to sustain a rich and healthy biodiversity of insects, birds, and animals. Some insects feed off particular plants so that a loss of a wild plant in an area could lead to the loss of an insect! This is how biodiversity can become depleted.

A lichen on a tree beside the Corrib, Galway

From a human perspective, plentiful biodiversity in a farming landscape ensures that food grown is of the highest quality. Livestock that feed on flower-rich pastures produce milk and meat with a higher nutrient content that those that feed on pastures devoid of flowers. The variety of insects that the many different wild plants attract and sustain provide a free and natural pest-control for farm crops so it is worth farmers' while to maintain a flower-rich margin around their fields. Also contact with the natural environment is good for human health and wellbeing!

Bumble bee on wild rose, Galway city   

How to Protect Wild Plants

The best way to protect and save wild plants is by learning how to identify them, and there are now plenty of books and online resources that can help the learner. Use these resources whilst also visiting the places where you can view the plants themselves. It is worth beginning in your own garden,  backyard, or neighbourhood because usually there is plenty to see. Below are some of the resources available.

 Mushroom at Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath

Check out our section on Nature Reference Books for wild flowers etc. 

 

Click here for Irish Wild Flowers 

Click here for the Lichens of Ireland Project

Click here for Irish Lichens

Click here for Woodland Plants

Click here for UK resource A Photo Flora

 Close up of Great Mullein, Meelick graveyard, Co. Galway

Praised be You, my Lord,

through our Sister Mother Earth,

who sustains and governs us,

and who produces various fruit

with coloured flowers and herbs.

- from The Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi, 1225

 

Praised be You

my Lord

with all

Your creatures

- St. Francis