Nature on our doorsteps – Flowers of the mountain

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures.

Heathers are in full bloom in the hills at the moment, bringing different shades of pink to the mountain slopes above the Glenasmole Valley.

When they grow amongst the yellow flowers of Gorse, the colour combination is particularly pretty.

Flowering Heathers and Gorse make a colourful combination in the Glenasmole Valley

Flowering Heathers and Gorse make a colourful combination in the Glenasmole Valley.

Heathers prefer soils that are peaty and acidic in nature, just the type of soil that is found in our upland hills. 

Common Heather is the most abundant species.

Its light pink flowers are no more than 5mm long, growing in dense spikes all over the little dark green heather bushes.

Very occasionally, pure white-flowering bushes of Common Heather can occur and it is said that white heather will bring good luck to anyone who finds it.

The flowers of Common Heather left and Bell Heather right differ in shape and colour

The flowers of Common Heather (left) and Bell Heather (right) differ in shape and colour

Common Heather’s Latin name is Calluna vulgaris, where ‘Calluna’ originates from a Greek word meaning ‘to sweep clean’.

This reflects the old practice of using heather twigs to make brooms or sweeping brushes.

The flowers of another species, Bell Heather, are darker pink in colour. These flowers are aptly named, as their petals are fused together into the shape of a bell.

Heathers produce plenty of nectar and pollen, so they are loved by our upland pollinators.

We benefit also, as honey made from heather pollen is deemed by many to be the best flavoured honey of all.

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