Tag Archives: botany

The Earliest Spring Ever!

Last night we had a severe frost in Wicklow, but it seems the plants have decided, for whatever reason, that spring is here to stay. I have never seen anything quite like it. On New Year’s Day I found Bluebells throwing the leaf-litter off and raising their juicy leaves to the sun.

Bluebell leaves …on New Years Day!

And not only were the daffodils up, but irises had poked their blade-like leaves through the soil, and the crocuses were not only well up above ground but some now have flowers on the verge of opening.

A crocus about to blossom, as I photographed it yesterday.

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking these impetuous plants are mistaken: crocuses can sometimes bloom in the snow, as can primroses, and daffodils often make mistakes. Fair enough arguments, but have you ever seen cherry blossom in January? There are certain October-flowering Cherry trees, but not January ones, and the pair of cherries growing out front of the church (opposite the petrol station) in Newcastle village would seem to me to be the typical spring variety. True, they are in sunny areas, but covered in blossoms and being attended by big Bumble Bees. Incredible!


One of the blossoming cherries outside the church on Newcastle main street.
A close-up of the beautiful blossoms, with bees in there somewhere.

According to the weather forecasters we are in for another week of cold frosty nights and mostly clear sunny days, so winter is certainly not done with us yet. But spring is here, whatever the weather. And just to end, keep an eye out for the beautiful feather-duster like, aniseed-scented blooms of the Winter Heliotrope. They are in abundance this year, and they have to be as there is so much competition.

Winter Heliotrope flies the flag for winter, while it still can.

And after a great 2012, with the massive successes of Wicklow boxer Katie Taylor and cross-country runner Fionnuala Britton, it seems the very landscape itself has decided to throw a celebratory party. 2013 is off to an awesome start.

Summer… back from oblivion

In May and June the weather went haywire, temperatures well below normal and vast quantities of rain pouring from the sky weekly. Well things are finally starting to look up. The weather seems to have stabilised, with temperatures last week actually reaching 27 Celsius and last night was a balmy 19 C, today all my various thermometers are hovering over 24C and it’s barely lunchtime. Anyhow, the flowers are blooming like crazy. Ireland is said to be one of the best places in the whole world to see fuchsias, which are not indigenous plants but garden escapees originally from southern Chile and Argentina. They have become an unmissable part of our new countryside, and many moths and butterflies like them too.

Beautiful fuchsias hanging by a Wicklow roadside right now.

But if that’s not enough for you, then there’s the oceans of nectar-filled colour to choose from. The Butterfly Bushes, Buddleia davidii are now weighed down with their various coloured blooms, each of which is a remarkable variation of a single type of scent. Needless to say the butterflies, hoverflies and everything else loves them.

A Red Admiral feeding on Butterfly Bush.


A Small Tortoiseshell tucks into the buffet.


And although this summer has been a genuine disappointment (butterfly numbers are WAY down below average) migrants are reaching our shores, and here is the single Painted Lady (below) I’ve seen so far this year, resting and basking on top of bramble in the 27 C of last week.

My one Painted Lady sighting this year. Elegance personified.

However, don’t let the butterflies take all the limelight – there are some truly fantastic beauties out there, and some of them are exotic-coloured beetles. I call this one the Dream Beetle for a long and complicated reason, but mostly because it has no common name. It’s one of the nectar-feeding long-horns, and last week was only my second time ever seeing one. The last was five years ago in the garden. This one (below) was out on the hogweed by the road. All praise the hogweed, it feeds armies of the most important insects in our countryside, and more besides. Importance, of course, is relative.

The Dream Beetle, Strangalia quadrifaciatus, is a large beetle that feeds on nectar and is only very rarely seen. We are very fortunate to have them in Wicklow, but I’m the only person I know of who has seen one! That’s why a camera is so important.

Well, the blog is back after terrible flu, endless rain, sub-summer temperatures and the many other little nuisances that afflict the online naturalist. I do plan to change the direction a little though, and perhaps make things more exciting. But you, dear reader, will be the judge of that…

Winter…turning into Spring!

It’s January and the beautiful-looking and beautifully-scented Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) is in full bloom, with soft feather duster-like flowers pouring aniseed-scented perfume into the warmer than average air.

Winter Heliotrope at sunset today, a January afternoon.

Not only this, but there are insects to be found everywhere, as there is little or no frost. Even now the Green Shieldbugs are changing from their brown winter colours to the green that gives them their name.

Brown form of Green Shieldbug already changing to green.

However, unusually for so early in January, the leafy spikes of daffodils have already broken through the surface of the clay, and are far in advance of last winter. The warm soil-temperatures and general lack of cold, and particularly frost, have led to this unusual situation. But there is one plant that puts the rubber stamp to an Irish spring, and that’s the crocus. So far I haven’t found any above ground or flowering, but they are not easy to find until their bright flowers burst open, which will very likely be very soon.


Daffodils photographed today, about two or three weeks earlier than last year, due to our unusually balmy January conditions, not to mention those preceding warm spells in November and December.

So, if you’re tired of snow and frost and ice, hop on a plane or ferry and come to Wicklow to see a wonderful early spring where temperatures are well above freezing and there are even summer garden plants still blossoming…with daffodil flowers coming shortly.