“Enwrought with golden and silver light….. the blue and the dim and the dark… I have spread my dreams under your feet…. Tread softly or you tread on my dreams.”
This week, we introduce you to some of the colourful locals that inhabit the many different habitats that make up Cabragh wetlands and at the moment are wearing their finest finery as if they are all set for the Galway Races.
Following an abundance of sun and rain, there is a massive display of colour throughout the wetlands.
Colour in nature is the inspiration of so much of our native art and design. The world famous Killybegs carpets and Donegal tweed take their inspiration from the blanket bogs that surround them.
Following a visit to the Aran Islands, Harry Clarke always included the world of nature in his stained glass and most of the colours in the Book of Kells are sourced in nature.
The colour in Cabragh at the moment is definitely stunning and although the whites and the yellows have for the most part departed notwithstanding the ubiquitous bindweed and meadowsweet, the blues, subtle pinks, vivid reds and deep purples are everywhere.
In the hedgerow the small navy blue sloes of the blackthorn are becoming larger and blacker as the weeks go by. On the bramble there are still some pink flowers but here and there the little knobs of green that will eventually form the blackberries have already made their appearance. The pink flowers of the dog rose are also departed and now the rose hips appear soon to be a vivid red.
A lovely bank of guelder rose to the left of the bird hide will soon yield its red soft berries while over on the pond bank the scarlet red berries of the rowan, the most fabled Irish native tree, stand out.
A second rowan on the pond bank has disappeared, a victim of wet and cold winters. A wetland is an unforgiving place for trees and you will notice a distinct lack of them as the land gently slopes to the river and becomes saturated.
As long as the weather remains warm, insects will provide their individual splashes of colour.
The peacock butterfly is everywhere to be seen, the huge eyes of its spread wings warning off predators. The small tortoiseshell with its subtle mixture of orange and brown flits across the wet meadow in front of the centre but if it’s real black and amber you want then the caterpillar of the cinnabar moth devouring the yellow ragwort fits the bill-indeed as a fully grown moth it is also very colourful as an adult with its charcoal grey and red wings.
This ragwort is a troublesome species in agricultural land. On average each plant can produce 50,000 seeds, 80% of which will germinate.
For children of an earlier generation, the ground beneath it was home to the fairies. The elephant hawk moth is a giant insect that feeds on the combined red, yellow and pink flower of the woodbine.
Around the ponds, the blues of the damselflies light up the greenery of the mares’ tails while down on the river bank, the almost jet black/ dark green damselflies provide a different contrast.
However, at this time of the year it is the wet meadow plants that take centre stage. As you walk the paths ,your eyes are assailed by the array of colours. Here is the soft pink of the lousewort - feel its stem and discover it is cuboid rather than cylindrical.
Another splash of a deeper pink in the semi-shade is Herb Robert with its five rounded petals. Banks of water mint all over the wetlands will soon begin to flower-their lilac pink flower heads give them a fluffy appearance. The red clover is also present ,so beloved of bees And the purple vetch is climbing through the undergrowth.
The tall ones catch your eye as swards of pink rosebay willow herb burst into flower but for my money, the All- star of the show is the purple loosestrife. See it beside the pond in the setting sun.
All there for you to explore and discover! With the outdoor setting of Cabragh and sticking rigorously to Covid 19 guidelines we are able to offer events for Heritage week, summer camp on a pared back basis for individual families and a teachers’ summer course if there is a demand.
Ring 0504-43879 any week morning for details. Pay us a visit soon and put the colour back in your life!
Stay safe-wash your hands.
Slán go fóill.
The Tipperary Star - supporting the protection of our local environment in Cabragh Wetlands