CLM Spring issue 2018 - Page 11



A study in pink
record has since surfaced; this was made by
H. Jacob in Ovens, County Cork, in about 1900.
In Wild Flowers of Cork City and County
(O’Mahony 2009), Tony O’Mahony commented:
‘While the discovery of Deptford Pink on Horse
Island is a remarkable addition to the Irish Flora, its
status (native or naturalised) on the island is highly
problematic and, perhaps, unresolvable. The fact
that no other Pink (Dianthus) species is indigenous
in Ireland, and that Deptford Pink is not recorded
elsewhere in this country, even as a casual, casts
doubt on its native status on Horse Island.’
John Akeroyd, who wrote up the discovery
(1993) and compiled and edited a full Sherkin
Island report (Akeroyd 1996), reviewed Tony
O’Mahony’s Flora in in 2010 (Watsonia 28:
98–100). While welcoming the book, he wrote:
‘My only quibble is that O’Mahony, in company
with some other Irish botanists, disputes the native
status of Dianthus armeria on Horse Island.’
In 2012, our pink turned up on the Aran island
of Inis Meáin (or Inish Maan), off the County
Clare coast. The Aran Isles are extraordinary rockscapes. Their limestone strata have been turned
by human hands into a bleached lattice of white
walls, blinding the visitor in strong sunshine. On a
visit two years ago (after the discovery, I hasten to
add), I was struck more by the cultural than by the
natural; the flora was wonderful, but the evidence
of human ingenuity in squeezing livelihoods out of
the rocks was awesome.
In 2013, in Irish Botanical News, Maria Long,
BSBI’s Irish officer reported: ‘An interesting find
this year was a population of Dianthus armeria
(Deptford Pink) on the east side of Inis Meáin, the
middle of the three Aran Islands. The species was
found in a semi-natural grassland sward, in an
area with small fields, stone walls and plenty of
outcropping rock.’ On the evidence provided by
a photograph, though, the location is not wholly
convincing as a long-overlooked native station.
A great many visitors, including botanists, take
the boat to the island. Who knows what they may
carry with them? Horse Island looks a more likely
native site today, but its acres have been intensively farmed and mined in the past. I agree with
O’Mahony that certainty about native status is not
possible. Other authors have raised the difficulty of
distinguishing native and alien populations in both
Britain and Ireland (Preston et al. 2002).
Could this worked landscape at Inish Maan really be
a native station for Deptford Pink? James Robertson
Of course, humans have played a part in the
distribution of many plants considered native in
Britain and Ireland. I am uncomfortable with the
sharp distinction which botanists like to make
between ‘native’ and ‘alien’. For thousands of years
people have provided plants with an effective means
of spreading across the sea to Britain and Ireland.
In this magazine (Robertson 2015) I have mused
about the status of Early Sand-grass Mibora minima,
a species which I first got to know in a nursery in
Surrey. It was discovered for the first time in Ireland
in 2005, Tony O’Mahony writing it up in Irish
Botanical News (O’Mahony 2006). After careful
consideration, he concluded that it should be taken
as a native member of the Irish flora. I imagine that
he stifled any doubts, knowing that they would not
endear him to the botanical community.
Sparks of knowledge fly when subjects rub
together. Archaeology can offer botany the dimension of people and boats in constant movement
around these islands, plant material sometimes
being used as packaging. It is now accepted that
Welsh Mudwort Limosella australis came to
Wales in the ballast tanks of ships returning from
America. Might some American-Irish specialities
tell a similar tale? Take the Slender Rush Juncus
tenuis, known in its native North America as Path
Rush for its ability to withstand compaction.
A weedy colonist of disturbed places, it looks
natural in some introduced locations in the west
of Scotland. In Cybele Hibernica, Colgan and
Scully (1898) note that this rush, first found in
Ireland in 1889, ‘has at least all the appearance of a
native’. Another member of the American element
February 2016 British Wildlife 157
BWM27_3 02 deptford pink.indd 157
29/01/2016 11:44

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