Lusitania & Armorica

Lusitanian flora and fauna

There are some species of plants, animals and creepy-crawlies that just shouldn’t be part of Ireland’s biodiversity and they pose quite a mystery.

The Lusitanian flora and fauna consists of plants and animals that really belong in Spain and Portugal. The arbutus or strawberry tree is mainly confined to Cork and Kerry, and Lusitanian species in Ireland are typically found in the south west. Other examples are the greater butterwort, a pretty flowering plant that also happens to be carnivorous and that’s found in uplands in west Cork and Kerry.

Among the animals are the natterjack toad, which has already been mentioned, and the Kerry slug, which is rather attractive, as slugs go.

Armorican flora and fauna

The Armorican fauna and flora is found in the south east of the country and in Devon and Cornwall in England, the Channel Islands and Brittany. It is not as well defined as the Lusitanian. It mostly consists of things like wood lice but it also contains one tree. Sorbus Devoniensis is so rare it doesn’t even have a common English name. It’s a species of whitebeam and I have found it growing in the lower Barrow valley in Co. Wexford and collected seed which was propagated by the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin.

How did they arrive in Ireland?

There are two possible explanations for the mystery of the Lusitanian and Armorican flora and fauna. They either represent creatures that crossed over to Ireland from their main strongholds using land bridges after the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. Or, and this I think is more likely, they tell us that during the last Ice Age there were small refuges in the south west and the south east with a climate warm enough to allow plants and animals that were here before the ice arrived to survive until things got warmer again.

(Lusitania and Armorica are the names of ancient provinces of the Roman Empire. Lusitania consisted of most of Portugal and part of Spain . Armorica was in north-western France.)

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