Flora and Fauna

FLORA

Blackthorn

BlackthornThis is a deciduous, sometimes dense, thorny shrub which grows abundantly throughout the country. A lesson in contrast between the white blossoms and the black branches, from March to May the shrub carries the white, 5-petalled flowers (10-15mm) in short dense spikes which usually appear before the leaves which are oval and slightly toothed. The fruit, known as sloes, are bitter blue-black berries like tiny plums. Steeped for some months in gin with sugar, they produce the dangerous sloe gin! This native plant belongs to the family Rosaceae.

Bramble

BrambleBramble or Blackberry comes in many forms – possibly several hundreds of micro species - and only an expert could have a hope of identifying many of these. The brambles which line our laneways and form a large part of our hedgerows are referred to collectively as Rubus fructicosus. Their distinctive arching stems are covered with sharp thorns and they frequently root along the ground when they touch it. The 20-30mm pink or white flowers have five petals and five sepals and are best seen from May to September. The leaves are green, often whitish beneath, with three or five lobes. The vicious thorns are well-known to anyone who ever tried to pick the wonderful fruit which is red at first becoming purple-black when ripe. Our Blackberry is a native plant and belongs to the family Rosaceae.

Cottongrass

CottongrassIf you are anywhere near a peat bog in spring, you will see what looks like tufts of cotton wool swaying in the wind. This is cotton grass, or bog cotton, which isn't really a grass at all, but a type of sedge. The "cotton" is made of long white hairs that help the seeds to disperse in the wind. Cotton grass been used in the past for making candle wicks, stuffing pillows and even dressing wounds. Cotton grass also provides food for at least two National Park residents - the large heath butterfly and black grouse. 

Cuckoo Flower

Cuckoo FlowerThis is a hairless perennial which tends to favour wet habitats such as marshes and damp meadows. It is also known as 'Lady's Smock' as the flower was said to resemble a milkmaid's smock. Its 12-20mm flowers have four broad, overlapping, lilac-pink, pink or white petals and appear in April, lasting until June. It has broad root leaves in a loose rosette while its stem leaves are narrow with numerous leaflets. Its seeds are contained in elongated, smooth, ascending siliquas. It is a larval food plant of the Orange-tip butterfly. It is a native plant and belongs to the large family Brassicaceae.

Daisy

DaisyPerhaps this little flower is the best-known of all our native plants. It adorns our lawns and short grassland from March through to October, each solitary head (15-25mm across) borne on a slender stalk and is a yellow centre of disc florets surrounded by a halo of white ray florets, sometimes tipped and flushed beneath with pinkish crimson. The Daisy is either a happy sight in early spring or, if you like a perfect lawn, it is something to be contended with. The leaves are spoon-shaped and grow in rosettes very tightly into the ground, so tight that nothing else can grow beneath them. The Daisy belongs to the family Asteraceae.

Dandelion

DandelionEvery child knows these bright yellow perennials of the roadsides and grassy, waste places, with their wonderful heads of flowers borne, from March to October, on hollow stems full of sticky white sap. Consisting of strap-shaped florets which close over during cloudy weather and at night time, these flower heads (25-50mm across) progress to become 'Jenny Joes' or 'Dandelion Clocks' – spheres of miniature parachutes, each one attached to a little seed. The leaves are responsible for the flower's common name – Dents de lion (lion's teeth) – as they are deeply lobed in a basal rosette. These are native plants belonging to the family Asteraceae.

Fern

FernThis is a fern, which like many similar ferns, remains green throughout winter. In spring it produces fresh bright green fertile leaves which contrast with the darker and sterile leaves of the preceding year. The pinnate, comb-like sterile leaves (10-15cm long) spread in a rosette with the young spore-producing leaves growing erectly in the centre, the apex being coiled tightly initially. This fern is frequently found on acid soil, along shaded ditches and in mountains. It belongs to the family Blechnaceae.

Foxglove

FoxgloveTall, graceful, downy, biennial plant of woodlands, moors, mountains and sea cliffs, the Foxglove thrives on acid soil and quickly colonises recently cleared ground. Reaching 1.5m, it can have up to 75 blooms on one stem. Its 4-5cm flowers are pinky-purple, even sometimes white, and have two lips with dark spots in the throat. They bloom from June to August. Large oval leaves form a basal rosette in the first year from which the flowering spike emerges in the second. Known to be poisonous, this plant is a native and belongs to the family Scrophulariaceae

Gorse

GorseWhether you know it as Gorse, Furze or Whin, this must be our most remarkable native shrub. Throughout the year, the rich yellow peaflowers seem to light up the Irish landscape. The 15-20mm long flowers, with their wonderful aroma of coconut, are borne on stems of spiny bluish-green spikes. The leaves have been modified over centuries into rigid and furrowed thorns which withstand the harsh conditions of winters at higher altitudes, making the entire bush one mass of prickles and spines. These shrubs form very many hedgerows around our fields, they line our country roads and particularly from February to May, when their flowers are in abundance, they are a sight to behold. This plant belongs to the family Fabaceae.

Hogweed

HogweedProbably the most commonly seen member of the Apiaceae family, Hogweed is a tall (sometimes over 2 m) stout, biennial or perennial plant which grows in meadows, in hedgerows and other grassy places. As its family name suggests, it bears its flowers in large, wide umbels, up to 20cm across. Blooming from June to September, each white or pink flower has uneven, notched petals. The hairy leaves are innately lobed with an inflated leaf base; the leaflets are toothed and downy below. This is a native plant.

Nettle

NettleAlso known as Stinging Nettle, this familiar wayside perennial stands 60-100cm high and is well-known for its unpleasant sting. It has pretty heart-shaped, toothed, opposite leaves which are longer than their stalks and very tiny green flowers from June to September which are wind-pollinated. The little male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, the male flowers projecting from the leaf-stem axils and the female flowers growing in long catkin-like clusters. Common Nettle's sting comes from acid which is released onto the skin when the tiny hairs break off on being touched. Common Nettle is a native plant and belongs to the family Urticaceae.

Thistle

ThistleAn elegant, thistle which is far more refined than several of its family members, Meadow or Bog Thistle, as it also known, is a creeping perennial commonly found in damp places and peaty pastures, most predominantly in the west. Growing to about 60cm high, its stems are neither winged nor covered in prickles, but are downy and ridged. The flower-heads (20-30cm across) are deep reddish-purple, are without ray-florets and have darker, erect bracts. The brush like flowers is solitary or in small clusters from June to August. The leaves are only slightly pinnatifid, green and hairy above, whitish and cottony below and slightly toothed. The fruit is a feathery pappus. This is a native plant which belongs to the Asteraceae family.

FAUNA 

As we walk the hillsides we will observe the raven glide majestically on the currents of air rising from the valley. One of the largest crow species they usually confine themselves to the high hills around Cnoc Bui and the Cahas.

The Common Crow is as the name suggests abundant in the parish while his cousin the Grey Crow has earned himself a bad reputation with the farmers, occasionally attacking young lambs in the fields.

Our rarest crow is the Chough; they also reside in the hills and usually pair for life. Their most distinguishing characteristic is their reddish / orange legs.

The woodcock and pheasant are birds of the gorse and briar while the snipe prefers the wetlands.

Our rarest bird is the red grouse, while there are still small pockets of grouse in the hills around Bonane, one fears that we are witnessing the extinction of species.

It has unfortunately been many years since the corncrake was heard in Bonane.

The heron is a regular sight along our rivers and streams, waiting patiently for a fish and in one swift move meal time is over.

We have healthy populations of most of the common species, finches, tits, siskin’s, wagtails, robins, thrushes, woodpigeons and blackbirds.

The largest wild mammal to be found in Bonane is the Sika Deer; they were introduced to Killarney in 1865 from Wicklow. They are no doubt aided in their colonisation of the parish with the introduction of conifer plantations. They can on occasion cause damage to a field of freshly sown grass seeds.

On the hills you will occasionally find a herd of feral goats, it is said that these herds may date back to famine times when farms were deserted and the goats allowed to roam free.

Our next widespread mammal is the fox; they can be found in all areas and are usually opportunist feeders but will attack lambs and poultry when hungry cubs are to be fed.

Badgers are less often seen, primarily because they are nocturnal creatures, they are highly social animals and may be found living in groups of six or more animals. Their diet consists of earthworms, fruit, carrion and small invertebrates.

Our newest naturalised mammal is the mink, originally introduced in 1951 from North America for fur breeding they escaped and are now widespread all over Kerry. The mink are usually found along waterways and can cause serious harm to ground nesting birds.

Our scarcest mammal is the otter; they are nocturnal and very wary of intruders in their domain. You will sometimes see their droppings along the rivers and this is the more usual evidence of their presence.

The rabbit was introduced to our shores by the Normans between 1274 and 1301; they are now probably our most abundant mammal. Their population is kept in check by the occasional outbreak of myxomatosis.

Our smallest mammal is the pygmy shrew, their diet consists primarily of insects and because of their small size they must eat continuously, if they are deprived of food for more than a few hours they would die.

The frog, while a threatened species in parts of Ireland, we are fortunate to have an abundance of the amphibians and from February onward you will find frogspawn in most wet areas.

If you are out and about on a hot summer’s day you may be fortunate enough to see our only native reptile, the viviparous lizard. Being cold-blooded they usually start their day by basking in the early morning sun.

Another unique resident in the parish is the Kerry Spotted Slug; they can vary in colour but are usually beige in colour with dark brown spots. This slug is found only in the south west and is believed to be a slug of the old forests and only survives here because of the mild wet climate.