SEAWEEDS OF THE IRISH COAST

Yesterday saw a whole bunch of us interested folks going to explore the arboretum at Ardnagashel in Glengarriff, West Cork, but apart from admiring the wonderful trees we also received lots of information on the seaweeds and lichens along this stretch of coast. Ardnagashel was established by the Hutchins family and it was as part of the Heritage Week of Ireland that these activities took place, in memory of Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815)who was a remarkable Irish Botanist. The talks on the lichens and seaweeds were given by Howard Fox, who is the State Botanist (National Botanic Gardens) and by Maria Cullen. This ‘life’ introduction to the seaweeds and the lichens of the coast of Bantry Bay was so very interesting. a true first introduction in this field for me. Later in the afternoon Madeline Hutchins (Ellen’s great great grand niece) took us through the forested area of this garden and introduced us to some wonderful trees, among them an enormous Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica). But more about the trees in another blog.  Now to concentrate on the seaweed for a start.  There is so much information that I took in yesterday and research I want to do on this that I feel delighted (because it’s right here at my doorstep), but I am also a bit overwhelmed because so far in my life I have been concentrating on enlarging my knowledge about wild plants, flowers, insects and spiders of Ireland.  Now this is taking it one step further with looking at lichens and seaweeds.  There are no days enough in the week to enjoy all this abundance of nature, and to do the research.  Needless to say I am a huge amateur in all this. (an enthusiastic one).
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So we learnt that there are three types of seaweeds and they are divided by their colour. These are the greens, reds, and brown seaweeds. There are about 10 000 species.  This particular species is called Fucus serratus L.  (Serrated wrack).  This seaweed is used commercially in the manufacturing of cosmetics and seaweed baths.

Photo on left is Knotted or Egg Wrack (Ascophylum nodosum) with another seaweed growing parasitically (it gets its sugar from the Knotted Wrack) on it, it is called Polysiphonia lanosa. Maria Cullen (right photo) told us to nibble some of the parasite and to me it tasted only like….sea water!  Maria gave us great demonstrations of a variety of seaweeds which she picked straight from the sea there.

Duileasc (Palmaria palmata) a red seaweed, and Nori (Porphyra tenera) and another one of the Wrack seaweeds (Fucus) .

Top right photo is a calcareous red seaweed, Howard is here showing and telling us about the Sea Spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata).  The book I am giving attention to on the right is an excellent cookbook with lots of information on the edible seaweeds.  I bought it for my son-in-law once and he was very pleased with it.

DSCF2696The coast of Bantry Bay is rich in seaweeds, and it’s beautiful too.

Nori seaweed, Laver (Porphyra tenera) in the top left photo is paper thin and edible, much used in countries like Japan of course.  The green seaweed is sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca).  The book on seaweeds looks real interesting and essential if seaweed foraging and identification is taken seriously.

DSCF2706Microscopes and strong magnifying glasses were all available for us to have a look through.

More samples laid out for us to check out and learn about, far more than I can identify right now.  Further in the water there were even more types of seaweeds to be seen.  Howard and Mary never tired of explaining to us all the details, it was such an interesting hour spend on a lovely and warm Saturday afternoon in this beautiful part of Ireland.  My brother Johan and his wife Lorraine who were visiting Glengarriff, were among those interested and it was lovely sharing this time with them too.

RAIN, COOL TEMPERATURES, AND TOADSTOOLS GROWING AMONG THE VEGETABLES

Well, we are more than halfway through the month of May, and temperatures have been very cool the last few weeks, a mere 9 to 12 degrees Celsius, with lots of icy wind and rain, so wet has it been that there are toadstools growing among the vegetables. But all the same, flowers are blooming and giving a lovely show, and the beans and pea flowers especially are abundant, so looking forward to a good harvest. I was minding my grandchildren over the weekend, so the last two days I am trying to catch up with jobs in garden and home, in another two weeks my older sister is coming to stay and I am so looking forward to her visit. Together we will be visiting our siblings who live around here, and we cannot wait to see the results of their garden designs and produce. Lots of work is going on between all of us. Growing your own vegetables and herbs is becoming a real ‘family’ thing with us all. (I am second eldest of a family of eleven). Plants will be swopped and stories about the latest experiment in growing too. One of us, my brother who lives in the beautiful Caha mountains in Glengarriff, is living off grid and he and his wife practice permaculture too, they have a lovely place going there. And my three sisters have gardens to be proud of, always improving, improvising, and trying out new ideas and plants.
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A WALK IN THE WOODS

A look back at a walk which a few of my grandchildren, my daughter and I enjoyed a few years ago, on a glorious sunny day.

We went for a walk in the woods, the Glengarriff woods, classified as a National Forest, and nature reserved. Some of this forest contains ancient Irish Oak trees (Oceanic Sessile Oak), but there is a great variety of other trees too, like the Beech, Holly, Rowan, and Birch tree. The woodland is extensive, and there are various designated walks. We did the Big Meadow Walk. Some of this walk winds along the river which meanders through this forest, the Glengarriff river. So it is very pleasant and there is quite a lot of wild-life to be seen, butterflies, and other small creatures as well as birds. We mainly saw the butterflies yesterday and they seem to have come out in good numbers due to the warmth of the sun. Peacocks, which are one our most beautiful butterflies. And the little Blues were around also, a pale small butterfly. Of the Peacock my delightful 6 year old granddaughter says that the eyes are on their wings to mislead and frighten their predators! Point well taken Alice. Alice has a great interest in nature, she keeps bringing me all sorts of insects for me to have a look at during our walk.  This woodland is a quiet place, only the sound of the river and of the birds is heard on a calm day.  It’s a place where one can experience stillness, and beauty, it is wonderful!

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Clusters of wild Primroses and Wood Anemones, and some type of Spurge.

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Some of the ancient Oaks looking very gnarled, like arthritic old men, their limbs contorted but very expressive.

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On the trees grow Mosses, Lichens, and some little plants.  I’ve also seen some young Pines growing on the branches of the older trees.  Ferns soak up the dampness where the wood is more dense.

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Willow trees or bushes starting to show their foliage, also the Hawthorn and Birch trees are bursting their buds, I ate some of the young Hawthorn shoots, quite nutty to taste.  In the undergrowth the Lesser Celandine is fully flowering.

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The white little flower of the Oxalis and more Wood Anemones of which we saw plenty.

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A woodland beetle, I think, but not sure what type.  And a Sedge plant flowering.

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Various types of Ferns growing in the undergrowth.  And the Lichens are plentiful, growing on the branches of the trees, I think that they are quite beautiful and intricate.

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There are also quite a few Pine trees in this woodland,  In 1955, ownership of 380ha of the woods passed from private to state ownership and Pines were grown for commercial forestry purposes.  Also during the sixties, seventies beautiful purple Rhododendron grew all over the forest, they had invaded and became a danger to the original forest so they were curtailed big time.  Today this forest is managed well, with lots of lovely walks, benches and pick-nick tables for families to enjoy.

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INBETWEEN PHOTOS

A brilliant rainbow in the valley of Glengarriff, a beautiful village in West Cork. It was such a bright rainbow that I could not resist taking a photo, not that I normally chase rainbows 🙂
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Evening over the hill at lough Ine, situated between Skibbereen and Baltimore, West Cork

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A quarry just outside the town of Skibbereen.  As I take an interest in rocks and minerals I have always wanted to take a photo of this quarry, it is my guess that slate and shale is or was quarried here in the past, or maybe still these days, as these are rocks that are found around here, and they would be used commercially.