Wild Plants of the Burren

The Burren is situated in northern county Clare, on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, and occupies an area of over one hundred square miles. The northern and western sections form a bare, undulating limestone plateau and are a fine example of a karstic landscape. The south-east is a lower-lying limestone area with some woods and lakes.

The Burren enables the co-existence of plants of different ecological species. There is nowhere else in Europe where Mediterranean, arctic and alpine plants grow together in a similar way. There are about 600 different flowering plants ranging from tiny annuals to shrubs and trees and ferns recorded in the Burren. Thus, about half of the total Irish flora is represented in the region.

This phenomenon is due to a number of different factors:

The limestone hills and terraces absorb heat from the sea and summer sunshine and release this heat gradually during the winter. As a result it is warmer on the hills and high valleys in winter than on the low-lying lands.

The temperate climate of the Burren is a result of the influence of the gulf stream which provides the west coast with a warm, moist air stream - the essential element for the survival of the Mediterranean species. The average air temperature ranges from 15° C in July to 6° C in January, while the soil temperature drops below 6° C for only a few weeks in winter, giving the Burren one of the longest growing seasons in Ireland.

Another factor contributing to the Burren's unique conditions is the high level of reflected light. The lifestyle of the arctic and alpine plants is greatly dependent on the amount of light that they receive. In the Burren a very high degree of light is achieved by reflections from the sea and from the limestone. This light is not depleted by any air pollution, shrubbery or grasses.

The flora of the Burren thrive in a number of distinct habitats: the grikes, gravel and grassland of the limestone pavement, turloughs, woodland & scrub, heathland, and coast & roadside areas.


Next - Limestone Pavement : Grikesnext