Unique Irish Flowers in Ireland

Botanical Blooms: Exploring Ireland’s Native Flowers

The four leaf clover is usually used as a sign of good luck and a symbol for Ireland. But, did you know that the clovers that are native to the area actually just have 3 heart shaped leaves?

If plants, especially flowers like these with quirky meanings are intriguing to you, then you’ll be glad to know that Ireland has a bunch of interesting blooms that call it home. 

Join us in uncovering the fascinating facts behind them, where and when to spot them, and maybe even some folklore connected to them. And who knows, you might just discover your new favorite flower!

Shamrock

Shamrock
Image Source: Pixabay on Pexels Official Website 

While the shamrock may not fit the botanical definition of a flower, its cultural significance and abundance in Ireland earned its inclusion and the first spot on our list. 

The small clover is often used as a symbol of good luck and of Ireland itself. 

Its importance dates back to ancient Irish Druids, who revered the plant for its 3 leaves which is in line with the Celtic belief in the power of three. 

Many species fall under the umbrella of shamrocks, including Trifolium dubium, Trifolium repens, Trifolium pratense, Medicago lupulina, and Oxalis acetosella.

Pro Tip:
It won’t take a lot of effort to spot this plant all over Ireland, but they can be more easily seen in grasslands or road verges. They grow especially dense in the spring and summer. 

Bluebells

Bluebells
Image Source: Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels Official Website 

Contrary to their name, Irish bluebells or Hysacinthoides Non-Scripta’ actually have purple or violet flowers. They typically bloom in woodlands and forests during spring These delicate flowers look like hanging bells and grow in clumps near the forest floor.

It might be tempting to jump into a bed of them, but folklore warns that disturbing these blooms may “ring the bells” and summon some pretty upset fairies. They are known to flourish even more in April and May.

Pro Tip:
The flowers are used as a symbol of care and gratitude across the world, but have a different meaning to the Irish, more closely tied to local myths and legends. 

Bog Rosemary

Bog Rosemary
Image Source: Wild Adirondacks Forever Wild Org Official Website 

Unlike the herb that shares the second part of its name, the Bog Rosemary is not edible, and is actually quite poisonous. This flower blooms in the bogs of the Irish Midlands.

This plant grows in a small and low shrub that usually stands below 40 cm and thrives the most in areas with high moisture. The height of blooming for the bog rosemary is during the months of May and June when the flowers are bright pink. 

The petals gradually fade into a player pink or a tinted white color as time passes.  

Pro Tip:
These flowers can be difficult to find in the bogs because of the thick vegetation there. If you want to spot them make sure you look among moss clumps as the bog rosemary shrubs usually grow near them for extra moisture.

Buttercups

Buttercups
Image Source: Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels Official Website 

Considered a rite of passage in Irish childhood, holding a buttercup under the chin of one of your friends to tell if they liked butter or not is something most of us have done.  These vibrant yellow flowers are incredible in spreading and growing. 

Their aggressive roots spread out quickly in the soil under other plants, grass, and shrubs in meadows and lawns across the country. Ireland has three native species, the Creeping Buttercup, the Meadow Buttercup, and the Bulbous Buttercup. 

Pro Tip:
If you turn the flower over and see the green sepals laid flat on the stalk, you’re holding the bulbous type. If the sepals press against the petals, a smooth stalk means the creeping kind. If the stalk feels rough, it’s a meadow buttercup.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot
Image Source: Petr Ganaj on Pexels Official Website

Coltsfoot flowers are celebrated not only for their distinct appearances but also for its medicinal uses. They have been grown and used for their believed healing properties, like being a remedy for the common cough by brewing them into a herbal tea. 

With yellow flowers and long leaves, the coltsfoot look similar to more common dandelions.

The plant thrives in disturbed soil and is usually seen as a kind of weed in home gardens and even on sidewalks. They typically flower between March and April, but areas with lower temperatures like the northern regions see them a bit later in the year. 

Pro Tip:
Although locals have been using coltsfoot for a while as a home remedy, you should be careful and research well before consuming the plant. Recent concerns have popped up about possible impacts the plant has to the liver. 

Cowslips

Cowslips
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Once labeled endangered in 1985 because of being overpriced and over-farmed, cowslips or Primula veris are now quite easy to spot in Ireland. These plants are easily  recognizable by their clusters of drooping yellow flowers perched on thick stems. 

These perennial wildflowers add a pop of bright color to meadows, grassfields, pastures, and forest floors where they can usually be found. The flowers only bloom completely in spring, so the best time to go hunting for them is between April and May. 

Cowslips have a bit of a role in Ireland’s history and have cultural significance. The flowers were rubbed on the udders of cows on May Day to promote milk production.

Pro Tip:
If you believe in Irish folklore, it’s said that cowslip flowers have protective qualities and can be used to fend off evil from houses and farms by hanging them on entrances and exits like doors and windows. 

Easter Lilies

Easter Lilies
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The Easter Lily  is more commonly referred to as a trumpet lily by flower lovers and gardeners. The nickname comes from the trumpet-like shape the white petals form when viewed from the side.  

This flower holds a special place in Irish culture and tradition. There’s a tradition of wearing it to remember and honor the soldiers who died fighting for their homeland and also for Jesus Christ’s resurrection during Easter time.

Coincidentally, the flowers bloom just in time with the celebration of the Irish Easter rebellion in 1916. 

Pro Tip:
You’ll likely spot these white perennial flowers in spring, in soils with lots of moisture, and in cool climates. Since the plants are stem rooted, they can grow up to a meter in height, so it’s pretty easy to spot them. Plus, the distinct fragrance leads you right to it. 

Early Dog Violet

Early Dog Violet
Image Source: Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy on Encyclopedia of Life Official Website 

The Early Dog Violet is a native perennial plant with petals in various shades of purple with a dark blue center. They are very similar to the more common violet variant, but those don’t have the same dark center and have a notch on the stem. 

The petals are shaped like hearts. The plant can grow to be around 10 to 15 cm tall and each stalk only holds one flower. 

They’re considered wild flowers and can grow almost anywhere including on the sides of roads. But, you can more easily spot them in woody forests, areas with lots of shade, coppices, and hedge banks. 

Pro Tip:
The early dog violets can mostly be found all over Ireland, but not in West Munster. If you want to increase the chances of spotting them, they bloom from March to June.

Foxglove

Foxglove
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Foxgloves are one of the most eye-catching plants that are native to Ireland. Not only is the sudden pop of bright purple like a bullseye for you to spot it, but the blooms grow in clusters making the plant even easier to spot. 

The flower is known as Lus mór or the Big Herb in Irish because of its medicinal properties and ability to grow up to 2 meters in height. Other names include fairy thimbles, goblin gloves, and witches gloves because of the shape of the flowers. 

Pro Tip:
Foxgloves are biennial plants that bloom in early summer and stay until the end of the season. You can usually find them adorning sea cliffs, mountain sides, woodlands, and moors. They thrive in acidic soil and can be poisonous, so be careful with them!

Gorse

Gorse
Image Source: Jonathan Borba on Pexels Official Website 

You probably know the gorse by its many names like furze and whin. This native shrub adds a vibrant touch to the Irish landscape with vibrant yellow pea flowers. 

Commonly found in hedgerows and lining roads in the countryside, gorse flowers are present throughout the year, but the blooms reach their peak in February and May.

The ability to grow all year long is mostly thanks to the stems of the plant which are covered in spines, thorns, and spiky leaves. Throughout the years, the plant has also adapted to withstand low temperatures in winter or in higher elevations. 

Pro Tip:
Aside from being very eye-catching and pretty to look at, the flowers also release a fragrant scent that has a hint of coconut in it. Just watch out for the thorns when you try to get close and get a whiff. 

Hawthorn Flowers

Hawthorn Flowers
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As opposed to most flowers which more commonly grow on low shrubs, Hawthorn flowers grow on trees. These trees are easy to spot because they’re characterized by their crooked trunk and branches.

The trees put the white cluster of flowers on display during early summer. These trees become stunning focal points in the Irish countryside when the white blooms decorate their branches.

Just like their appearance, which can be a bit plain compared to brighter petals of other flowers, these plants also don’t carry their own distinct smell. 

Pro Tip:
Hawthorn trees don’t necessarily have a good reputation in Irish literature and folklore. In the countryside and especially among the older generation, lone Hawthorn trees are usually respected and sometimes even avoided and feared.

Irish Eyebright

Irish Eyebright
Image Source: National Botanic Garden of Wales Official Website 

The Irish Eyebright has over 10 different kinds growing all over the country. Most of these species are white in color, but some may have a light tint of pink or purple.

Flourishing in multiple habitats like sand dunes in seaside areas, grasslands, and rocky soil, this plant encompasses around 17 diverse species. 

Irish Eyebrights can be found near roots of clovers and plantains and grass. Considered partially parasitic, these plants get their nutrients from other plants. They bloom from June to October. 

Pro Tip:
It’s easier to tell an Irish eyebright apart from other variants. Just try to look for flowers with 4 petals arranged in the shape of the cross with purple lines extending from a yellow center. The plant also has distinct narrow green leaves with a bit of bronze. 

Marsh Cinquefoil

Marsh Cinquefoil
Image Source: Wild Adirondacks Forever Wild Org Official Website 

The Marsh Cinquefoi is more commonly known as purple marshlocks or swamp cinquefoil. These maroon flowers are shaped like stars with a hard bud in the center. 

This hardy shrub thrives in Ireland’s cold climate. The plants particularly like wet and damp ground making marshes, bog lands, and lake shores ideal places to spot them.

The Marsh Cinquefoil is an excellent source of nectar for bees and butterflies. They contribute greatly to and are a vital part of the cycle of pollination

Pro Tip:
If you want to spot Marsh Cinquefoil flowers, take a stroll around Ireland’s marshes during the latter part of spring from the end of May to June.

Primrose

Primrose
Image Source: Julia Filirovska on Pexels Official Website 

The Primrose holds a unique place among Ireland’s native flowers and in the country’s folktales. It was considered a talisman for safety and protection by ancient Celtics. 

Huge collections of these flowers were also seen as a sign of a gateway to a faerie realm. These flowers were also considered a commodity and were believed to have medicinal qualities to treat things like headaches and toothaches. 

These flowers can come in white and light yellow and flower between March and May. Primroses can usually be found along river banks and damp forests.

Pro Tip:
Although the petals of the primrose flower have a long standing history of being used in food preparations and medicinal cures, it’s a lesser known fact that the leaves and stems are also edible.

Sea Aster

Sea Aster
Image Source: Science Photo Official Website 

The Sea Aster gets its common name from being known to grow with some part of the plant rooted in sea water. 

This plant’s root system is also known to be very strong. It can survive on cliff edges or mountain sides even with little soil to hold onto. Other places to spot these flowers are along Irish coastlines, inside salt marshes, some estuaries, and even inland salt works. 

Flowering from July and October, Sea Asters produce flowers with lavender petals, a yellow center, and can grow to heights of a meter high. 

Pro Tip:
In their early stages, the buds of the Sea Aster can sometimes be mistaken as sea lavenders, but once they open and bloom, you can more easily tell the difference between the 2. 

Sheep’s-Bit

Sheep’s-Bit
Image Source: The Wildlife Trusts Org Official Website 

The Sheep’s-Bit, scientifically known as Jasione montana, are often found in Ireland’s clifftops and heaths. Other places to spot these flowers include dry grasslands and rocky areas.  

The flowers grow in a rounded shape in hues of light purple and lavender for a very charming look to it. They are known to flourish more abundantly from May to September and often carpet vast areas of the ground during these months. 

Pro Tip:
Because of their pretty flowers and the fact that the plant is low maintenance and durable, Sheep’s-Bits are often used in home gardens. Make sure you plant them where they get lots of sunlight and in sandy, self-draining soil. 

Spring Squill

Spring Squill
Image Source: Interflora Ireland Official Website 

The Spring Squill grows in some parts of Europe with varieties ranging from flowers colored in white, pink, and blue. But, the kind that’s native in Ireland comes in light and dark shades of purple. 

This plant is known to thrive in coastal areas, especially in places where the sea spray is carried to by the wind. Via a public vote in 2007, the Spring Squill holds the title of the county flower for County Down.

Growing from a bulb, this small perennial plant stands at a max of 15 cm with narrow and long leaves at the base and scentless flowers in clusters at the stem’s top. 

Pro Tip:
The Spring Squill has one of the shorter flowering periods among the native flowers in Ireland. Make sure you stay vigilant and try to spot these pretty blooms between the months of April and May. 

Spear Thistle

Spear Thistle
Image Source: Michelle Reeves on Pexels Official Website 

Although the Spear Thistle is known as the national flower of Scotland, there is a variety of it that is native to Ireland. This perennial plant is full of spikes and pricks which makes it look more similar to a cactus than a flower. 

The flowers themselves are actually pretty soft and are colored a deep purple or a bright magenta. These belong to the Asteraceae family and are commonly found in wild grasslands across the country during the summer and autumn months.

Pro Tip:
The Spear Thistle is a popular and important source of food for birds who feed on the seeds of the plant. The plants can often be found near the edges of forests or fields. Staying by the plants can mean close encounters with the birds who come by!

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle
Image Source: Hitchcock Center for the Environment Official Website 

If you’re not from Ireland, at first glance the Stinging Nettle might look like a collection of leaves, but under closer inspection, tiny white and green flowers dot the center of some leaf clusters. 

If you’re a local, you’ll know to stay away from these native flowers as the Stinging Nettle is known to sting when disturbed. 

The sting is actually from acid that’s released when the tiny hairs get broken off. The flowers bloom during the summer months. The plant itself prefers moist soils, but are sturdy enough to be able to grow in common places, especially in the countryside. 

Pro Tip:
The flowers of the stinging nettles have been used in Irish culture as both extra ingredients and also as medicine for stomach worms, dropsy, and rheumatism. 
Bonus Tip: placing a dock leaf over the sting from the plant is said to help soothe it. 

Wild Clary

Wild Clary
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The Wild Clary, scientifically termed as Salvia verbenaca or tormán in Irish, is a very rare native plant. This perennial plant grows in bushes that can reach heights of about 80 cm. They bloom mainly from May to August, with growth peaking in June. 

The plant itself is made of delicate and small flowers that can be violet or blue, leaves that  resemble sage, and a stalk that’s hairy. The scent of the flowers are also similar to that of sage. 

Pro Tip:
Wild Clary flowers are one of the harder plants to come across in Ireland. They mainly grow in dry grasslands, specifically in the Cork and Wexford regions.