Members Reports and Photos


SUNDAY 25 MAY 2014                   



Woodland and Shoreline Flora of the Blessington Lakes Area

A select group of members braved the unpromising weather on Sunday 4th May 2014 to explore the shoreline and adjoining woodlands at Russelstown (N9610), located on the west side of the Pollaphuca (Poulaphouca) Reservoir. The leader Margaret Norton gave a short account of the formation of the reservoir as described in Beneath the Poulaphuca Reservoir: The 1939 Poulaphuca Survey of the lands flooded by the Liffey Reservoir Scheme (Corlett, 2008). Unfortunately the 1939 Poulaphuca Survey did not include any scientific study of the flora, save for a single photograph of a water buttercup taken at the request of Eoin MacNeill. However much of the flora is recorded in the Flora of the County Wicklow (Brunker,1950) including records from the Ballinahown Bog, an area now submerged under the reservoir.   

The formation of the Pollaphuca Reservoir (also referred to as the Blessington Lakes) in 1940 created a clearly defined geographical unit, bordered on the west by gravel ridges and on the east by the Wicklow Mountains. The meandering shoreline stretches for a distance of c.80km, the exact distance varying with the fluctuating water level of the reservoir. The field trip leader, who has botanised much of the shoreline and reservoir environs over the past twenty years, was intent on convincing the members of the Dublin Naturalistsí Field Club that the area deserves further investigation. The high water level on this occasion meant that much of the pebble shore was submerged. However the varied nature of the shoreline was clearly seen during the outing, in particular from the viewing point where members paused for lunch.  

Plants observed in the area adjoining the carpark at Russelstown included the garden escapes Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh poppy), Tellima grandiflora (Fringe-cups), Polygonatum multiflorum (Solomonís-seal), Arum italicum (Italian lords-and ladies) and Hyacinthoides non-scripta x hispanica (Hybrid bluebell). Geum rivale (Water avens) was also recorded, a species which is established at several other sites within the vicinity of Russelstown.  The distinguishing features of Alnus glutinosa (Common alder) and Alnus incana (Grey alder), both of which grow at this location, were examined.  Further southwards along the shoreline, the group encountered several species of Salix (Willow) including S. cinerea (Sally), S. fragilis (Crack willow) and S. alba (White willow). Several trees were identified as possible Salix hybrids, to be re-examined later in the season.  

The outing provided the opportunity to revise the fern identification skills acquired during the recent fern session at the Praeger Centre.  Species encountered in the vicinity of the Pollaphuca Reservoir included Athyrium filix-femina (Lady fern), Dryopteris dilatata, Dryopteris filix-mas and a member of the Dryopteris affinis complex. Of particular interest was the occurrence of Polystichum aculeatum, itís growth beside the more common P. setiferum allowing the diagnostic features of the two species to be compared. The outing also provided the opportunity to examine some common grasses as a prelude to the forthcoming Praeger Centre session on grass identification.  

The outing was not limited to matters botanical! A small but active population of Wood White butterflies, expertly photographed by Pat Lenihan, joined the group as they Ďdined outí by the lakeside.

Only the Dublin Naturalistsí Field Club could provide such a pleasant interlude to a morningís fieldwork!  

  Margaret Norton



Lake Scene 1


Lake Scene 2                                                    Lake Scene 3


Aegopodium podagraria                          Cryptic Wood White                                      Arum italicum


Meconopsis cambrica                   Tellima grandiflora                      Chrysosplenium oppositifolium                  Geum rivale                        


Fallopia sachalinensis                  beneath Poulaphouca Reservoir              Fallopia japonica


Salix alba                                                             Salix alba                                                     Salix fragilis       


                                      Polystichum aculeatum  (above and below)                       Polygonaum multiflorum                         Polystichum aculeatum                                              


some Participants 

   Photographs © Pat Lenihan

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