Members Reports and Photos
LEADER: Alexis FitzGerald
Lacustrine and Woodland Flora
Lough Dan is a classic ribbon lake, carved out of the Wicklow granite by glaciers moving over the area during the last Glacial Period. The lake was dammed in by morainic deposits left behind as they retreated. These deposits provide a limestone quality to the soils, especially at the north end of the lake, which contrasts sharply with their acidity the south end. The lake is fed by two rivers, the Cloghoge and the Inchavore, and is drained by the Avonmore, which continues on to merge with the Avonbeg at the Meeting of the Waters near Avoca.
11 members gathered in the Lough Dan Scouts' Centre near the southern shores of the lake to explore the area, which includes a Salix marsh and a large expanse of acidic oak woodland. Deep in the throes of autumn, many plants were past there best, without flower or even seed, which can make field identification challenging. Before setting off, Alexis handed out a list of all the records made for this site by James P. (JP) Brunker, late DNFC member and author of the Flora of the County Wicklow (1950), and it is a substantial one, owing to the variety of soil types and habitats in the area. The group firstly set off to the nearby marsh area where the Avonmore river begins, leaving Lough Dan. Here, although heavily flooded by recent rains, the group saw a number of species, including Molinia caerulea (Purple Moor-grass), Agrostis canina (Velvet Bent), Salix (Willow) spp., Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet), Rumex acetosa (Common Sorrel) and Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil). Earlier in the year, this area also contains Scutellaria galericulata (Scullcap), Conopodium majus (Pignut) and Achillea ptarmica (Sneezewort), but they had long before set seed and disintegrated.
The group then moved along the road towards the Old Bridge over the nascent Avonmore river. A number of garden escapes were found along the road, including Acaena ovalifolia (Two-spined Acaena), Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan Honeysuckle), Persicaria wallichii (Himalayan Knotweed) and Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp. argentatum (ssp. of Yellow Archangel) One garden escape of particular note was Crocosmia × crocosmiiflora (Montbretia), which was recorded by Brunker growing on the Old Bridge in 1935 and it is still at that exact spot today!
Also found along the way were Rubus idaeus (Wild Raspberry), Umbilicus rupestris (Navelwort), Hypericum androsaemum (Tutsan)and a flowerless specimen clearly in the Lamiaceae family (strong square stems, opposite leaves, etc.), which might be the native Lamiastrum galeobdolon, but a return during the flowering period is necessary for accurate identification. A number of species of fern were also found, including Dryopteris affinis agg. (Golden-scaled Male-fern), D. dilatata (Broad Buckler-fern), Asplenium trichomanes (Maiden-hair Spleenwort) and Polypodium cf. vulgare (Polypody), growing on a dry stone granite wall.
The group eventually reached a large area of natural acidic oak woodland, and it was remarked that this habitat is the natural state of much of Ireland and in Mesolithic times, would have covered the majority of the island. The understorey had much Ilex aquifolium (Holly) and the undergrowth was dominated by Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry / Fraughan) and Luzula sylvatica (Woodrush). A few interesting fungi were found, including Mutinus caninus (Dog Stinkhorn) and Melanoleuca polioleuca (Common Cavalier).
On our return journey, the group was delighted to be caught in the middle of a large herd of Ovis aries (Sheep) moving along the road.
Lough Dan entrance Map of L. Dan area Avonmore River
Crocosmia x Crocosmiflora (Montbretia) Leycesteria formosa
Dryopteris affinis Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp. argentatum Ilex aquifolium
Hypericum androsaemum Stachys palustris Oak galls
Oxalis acetosella Umbilicus rupestris Rumex acetosella
Puffball Stinkhorn Fungus
'Brunker plant List' old Quercus tree Meikle's Willows and Poplars
DNFC & Sheep
Photographs © P Lenihan
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