Nature on our doorsteps: Purple Haze

By Rosaleen Dwyer

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

In flower at the moment are two little wild plants that are usually overlooked as being only weeds. 

Red Dead Nettle and Fumitory can often be spotted growing in bare patches of soil, such as at the base of walls or around the bottom of trees in our housing estates.

Fumitorys pretty pink flowers are tipped with crimson compressor

Fumitory's pretty pink flowers are tipped with crimson

When growing and flowering closely together, they can produce a soft ‘purple haze’ of colour which deserves a closer look. Fumitory produces a scrambling mass of small, delicately divided, grey-green leaves. 

The plant’s pink flower tubes are tipped with crimson and, because of this, it is sometimes called Lady’s Fingers.

 

The name Fumitory originates in the Latin ‘fumus terrae’ meaning smoke of the earth, perhaps because the plant’s tangle of tiny grey-green leaves can sometimes look like hazy smoke rising from the ground.  

Red Dead Nettle is also a scrambling plant, spreading out sideways to fill the space around it. 

Fumitory and Red Dead Nettle can often be found growing together in disturbed soil compressor

Fumitory and Red Dead Nettle can often be found growing together in disturbed soil

The leaves at the tips of its stems can take on a soft purple tint, blending nicely with the plant’s pink flowers.  These flowers are loved by springtime bumblebees.

Both plants grow throughout the year and, being ‘weeds’, they can pop up and flower quite quickly whenever soil is disturbed, bringing colour and food for insects to a patch of bare ground.

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