Members Reports and Photos

SATURDAY 26 april  2014            



Sand Dune Plants

Despite the weather forecast for heavy rain and wind, seven members joined the leader, Catriona Brady, at this meeting to explore the flora of the Brittas Bay dunes area.

Before looking at the flora, the group first stopped to admire a rather uncommon fungus,  the Morel Morchella esculenta, a spring flowering species which is often associated with conifers.  The single specimen was growing in typical dune vegetation, with Common Restharrow Ononis repens, Whitlowgrass Erophila verna in flower and fruit, Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria, Common Dog-violet Viola riviniana, Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca,Common Milkwort Polygala vulgaris and Luzula campestris Field Wood-rush.

A short climb up a nearby dune ridge provided a good view of the extent of the presence of Sea-buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides in the dune system.  Catriona noted to the group that, for good or ill, this is perhaps the plant with everything:  heavily armed against disturbance and trampling, silver leaved for moisture retention and salt tolerance, flowering early and spreading via seeds and rhizomes, with nitrogen fixing nodules in its root system, an edible berry high in ascorbic acid that is favoured by rabbits (and jam-makers!) and capable of growing in any soil in any conditions. Having been planted as a dune stabiliser and as a barrier planting at golf course perimeters, H. rhamnoides continues on the increase, taking over tracts of dune along the east coast from Dublin to Wexford. 

The group moved on to the front of the dune system where the effects of winter storms were evidenced.    Previously undisturbed fixed dunes are now slightly eroded and there appears to have been some dumping of sand on the landward side of the fore dune by storms.  Notably, Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta has appeared here. Against the background of a dramatic high sea driving onshore from the east, the group reviewed the progression of the dune vegetation from Marram Ammophila arenaria, to herbiferous grassland and back to the shrubby zone where species such as Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum and Burnet Rose Rosa pimpinellifolia grew. Here, Creeping Willow Salix repens was examined in some detail to get to terms with the dioecious structure of the plant. 

Next, it was back to the shelter of the dune slacks to view an impressive stand of Sharp Rush Juncus acutus.  Catriona noted that the species appears to be on the increase at this site.  Staying in the sheltered dune area, the group moved on to view Wild Pansy Viola tricolor (subsp. curtisii), Sea Mouse-ear Cerastium diffusum and Thyme-leaved Sandwort Arenaria serpyllifolia, the latter two species growing intertwined together.  A stop to view  Heath Dog-violet Viola canina, yielded the adjacent treat of the Puss Moth Cerura vinula resting near the base of a clump of J. acutus. 

Finally, the group moved on to a field on the landward side of the road at the back of the dunes to view Common Cudweed Filago vulgaris, Little Mouse-ear Cerastium semidecandrum, Sweet Vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, Sheep's Sorrel Rumex acetosella,  Erophila verna, Thale Cress Arabidopsis thaliana and Dove's-foot Crane's Bill Geranium molle were also seen.  Moore's Horsetail Equisetum x moorei, which has recently disappeared  from one of its sites on the nearby dunes due to storm erosion, was noted in some quantity here.

The outing ended as it had begun:  with a diversion away from the flora, this time to admire the antics of a Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare as it obligingly unfurled when cupped and warmed up in the palm of the hand.
Pauline Hodson


Brittas Beach  


          Vicia (Vetch)                                Arenaria serpyllifolia                         Cerastium glomeratum


Hyacinthoides non-scripta                 Equisetum x  moorei             Viola canina


            Juncus acutus                           Gnaphalium vulgaris             Morchella esculenta


Sand Dunes                                                             Participants


                                        Salix repens                                         


Puss Moth 

                                            Photographs Pat Lenihan


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