Inch and beyond – Botanising in East Donegal (VC H34)

Donegal is a beautiful and interesting county, filled with wonderful scenery, areas of historical/cultural significance and a great place to get in touch with nature!

On the 12/07/2014 we set off on a rather drizzly morning from base-camps to Inch Island (which has a fantastic reputation for birdwatching). The first site we arrived at was Millbay near Ballynakilly (which once had a Corn and Flax Mill). The surround habitat was sand and shingle with agricultural fields further in the background. It didn’t appear as if the weather was going to get any better so we decided to start recording. A few of the plants which were recorded at this site, where new to my species listing, which always gives you encouragement to search for more.

Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima)
Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima)

Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima) was probably my favourite new plant species for this site. The plant is hardy (in relation it’s salt rich habitat) but still delicate and rather beautiful.

Looking out to Lough Swilly from Inch Pier
Looking out to Lough Swilly from Inch Pier

The second site for the day was down at the pier at Inch, which appears to be close to Down Fort (Inch Fort). More sand, hedgerows and treelines in this location. The majority of the plants found here were quite common, but there was a few that were nice to see and one in particular that was rather odd.

Sand Leek  (Allium scorodoprasum)
The possible – Sand Leek 
(Allium scorodoprasum)

Sand Leek (Allium scorodoprasum) is not at all widely recorded for Ireland and appears to have only one record for Donegal between the years 1930-1969. I had never come across this species before and because of that we weren’t quite sure whether it was Sand Leek or Babington’s Leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. babingtonii). There was at least 5 individuals which were growing along with nettles, sow thistles and grasses. The plant is rather striking for no other reason than it looks like nothing else we’ve ever seen! The flowering head is rather unusual but rather pretty (although the smell is not something I could grow accustomed to). It has an extremely long stem (waist height for some) and a papery sheath just below the flowering head which can be seen in the above picture. Unfortunately by the time we had a second opinion on the species the plant had gone over, while it may seem like a shame not to know right now, it gives us something to look forward to for next year (yes, we’re already planning a trip to the same site for 2015 to get full confirmation). Regardless of the species, it will be quite an interesting record as the majority of Allium species have quite low record counts for East Donegal (VC H34). (In case you were wondering, I’m hoping it turns out to be Sand Leek).

Third site on our list was Lackan (Woodland), the area was mainly conifer plantations and there didn’t appear to be a great variety except for a scattering of plants on the banks and above the ditches.

Our final site for the day, took us out of Inch and on our way further into North Donegal. Situated between Buncrana and Carndonagh is the wonderful Lough Fad.

Lough Fad
Lough Fad

The surrounding area included bog and some unimproved grassland and a number of orchids turned up also. Bog species, such as Round leaved Sundew (Drossera rotundifolia) Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum ) and Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella). Common, Heath Spotted Orchids, as well as Northern Marsh Orchid were also found! Devils Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) the larval foodplant of the only protected insect species in Ireland the Marsh Fritillary was also on site.
Follow me on Twitter if you’re interested in the Flora of Ireland (in particular East Donegal) or Irish Biodiversity.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/OshDuffy
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/fearglas