The terrain that exists within the bounds of Dromore Wood is so varied that the flowers and plants found there are remarkable in their diversity.
With extensive wetlands all year round, grassy meadows from spring through to autumn, deep, shaded woodland leaf mould there is even an area of Burren landscape with its fine layer of soil.
And the plants that grow there mirror the uniqueness of the Reserve with shade-loving spring flowers, some plants without chlorophyll, great banks of summer purples and gold living alongside delicate orchids.
This beautiful plant with its spike of bell-shaped flower carpets the woodland floor in an azure blue hue during springtime. A member of the hyacinth family, the Bluebell grows from a bulb from which starch was obtained to make an early form of glue.
Treading and crushing Bluebells will kill the plants far more readily than picking the flowers though a picked flower will be unable to form its three segmented seedpod and spread its tiny black seeds. Enjoy the sight of flowering Bluebells but please do not pick them. Watch out for the odd white version.
The small bright yellow flowers of the Celandine brighten the forest floor from February through to May heralding the arrival of spring. The 16th century botanist William Turner wrote ‘it groweth under the shadowes of ash trees’ and it certainly lives up to that reputation here in Dromore Wood where it is abundant.
A member of the buttercup family, the Celandine grows to a height of just 15cm.
The tiny, fragile violet is one of the most common flowers of the woodland. The purple/blue flowers of the Dog-violet are probably the best known but there a number of other violet species. The Dog-violet can be found deep in the shade of the wood, in banks and the forest edges.
The triangular shaped seedpod splits open and sheds the seeds before falling from the plant stem. The violet species are the food plant of the beautiful Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly which can be seen on the wing in Dromore Wood in July and August.
The Common Vetch is a member of the pea and bean family and is commonly seen in hedgerows during the summer months, its purple/pink flowers attracting the attentions of bumble bees and insects. A climbing plant, the Vetch uses its tendrils to scramble up neighbouring plants for support. The seedpods turn black and the seeds which are also black are ‘catapulted’ out as the pod bursts open when fully ripe.
Creamh na muice fia
Named after the shape of a deer or Hart’s-tongue, this fern species is a lover of damp shady places and lime-rich soils though it occasionally can be found in damp crevices in walls and limestone pavements of the Burren area. Unlike other fern species, the leaves of which are feathery, the Hart’s-tongue is a single solid ‘frond’ which growing in favourable situations is dark green, luxuriant and shiny. The Hart’s-tongue was used in folk medicine as a spleen tonic. The seeds of fern species are minute spores which are released into the air.
While walking in the wood during a summer’s evening, one may notice the delicious aroma of the Honeysuckle flower. The Honeysuckle or Woodbine is a vigorous woody climbing plant that winds around the host tree sometimes so strongly that it causes a contortion of the tree branches. Squirrels are known to remove strips of the Honeysuckle bark to line their dreys.
One of the earliest plants to begin leaf growth, the yellow flowers tinged with red appear in the summer. The Honeysuckle is as happy growing deep in the wood shaded by the tree canopy as it is growing on smaller shrubs in the sunlit wood margins. It can reach a height of eight metres.
One of the commonest sights in the wood, this plant is also one of the most important. With its roots in the ground, the Ivy uses trees and walls as support for growth. An evergreen, the dense masses of Ivy on the tree trunk and branches is a perfect nesting and roosting facility for bats and birds. The flowers of the Ivy give off a delicious aroma late in the year and are a magnet for thousands of insect. The black Ivy berries are a great source of winter food for birds and mammals at a time when food is scarce.
Lords-and-ladies, which has numerous local names, has bright green arrow shaped leaves which are often spotted with red. The Arum grows in dark, damp, shaded places in the woodland.
The thick purple finger-like flower of the Arum is enclosed in a cream-coloured sheath called a spathe. The flower has a smell of decay which attracts flies. The flies crawl deep into the plant, pollinating the flowers but are often unable to escape. Easily missed during early summer, the Arum becomes more noticeable when the flower head develops into a group of green then bright red berries in August. These berries are poisonous.
The Meadowsweet grows in similar conditions as the Purple Loosestrife and together they make a magnificent vista of purple and gold in the wet meadows of Dromore. The Meadowsweet’s small individual flowers create a soft, plume-like shape, they are creamy with a heady, honey-like smell.
The name Meadowsweet may originate from the title ’mede sweete’ as the plant was used to flavour mead, a drink made from fermented honey. This plant was also used in old remedies for pain and fever as it contains chemicals of the same group as those used in aspirin.
Mediterranean plants whose presence here is due to the warmth of the Gulf Stream, the orchids bring an exotic flavour to the woodland margins and Burren-like areas of Dromore Wood. There are many varieties of orchids with the most common being the Early-purple and the Pyramidal. Both these species have purple/pink flowers and can be found growing in areas of the path which are open to the sunlight.
You may also find the curious Bird’s-nest Orchid which has no green leaves and is simply a brownish stem with dead looking flowers. This orchid, which lives in shade, thrives in leaf loam from which it takes its nutrients. The Bird’s-nest is a saprophyte, a plant without the green colour of chlorophyll and which feeds on rotting vegetation with the aid of a fungus partner. It can be seen in Dromore Wood during May to July in the deeply shaded beech wood.
During the mid to late summer months, the striking purple spikes of the Purple Loosestrife abound on the moist and boggy areas of Dromore Wood creating a vivid band of rich colour near the lake margins. The stems of this plant are square with the flowers set in whorls of six forming a long pointed spear of purple. It can also be found in the damp hedges, ditches and boggy fields of the Burren.
Low growing cream coloured parasitic perennial. Flowers are pale pink on drooping one-sided spike. Found in Dromore Wood during April and May in deep shade particularly around hazel.
Sú talún fhián
A mini version of the popular summer fruit, the Wild Strawberry thrives on the limestone soil of Dromore Wood where it can be found alongside the woodland paths and in the forest edges. The tiny white flowers bloom during June and July and then form the tiny but perfect, red, strawberries which are such an important food for the birds and mammals of the wood.
The Strawberry not only reproduces from the seeds which can be seen on the outside of the fleshy fruits but it also sends out runners from the main plant which root and create a new plant.