A CATALOGUE OF ALIEN PLANTS IN IRELANDSylvia C. P. Reynolds
Occasional Papers No. 14 : pp 414
publication date 2002
Aliens are now rightly regarded as one of the major threats worldwide to native biodiversity, and we ignore them at our peril. They readily displace native taxa, as we have seen with Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) in the Killarney oakwoods and elsewhere, and they can hybridize with native species or with other alien plants to generate further problems. They often have major economic impact, especially as weeds of agriculture, waterways and industrial land.
Alien plants comprise an integral and increasingly significant element of the flora of Ireland. However, they have not always received the amount of serious study that they deserve. Indeed not all botanists have regarded research on aliens as an entirely reputable occupation, and this has certainly too often been the case in Ireland. Even that doyen of Irish floristic botany, the late Professor David Webb of Trinity College, Dublin, was suspicious of aliens, and he and others have tended to be selective in their treatment of non-native plants. So-called ‘casuals’ especially have been glossed over or dismissed. Only partly in jest, Webb more than once scolded me, and the author of the present Catalogue, for an interest in aliens that “would lead Irish botany into disrepute”! But I am sure that he would have been delighted to welcome this publication and have it to hand for constant reference.
By contrast with Ireland, for more than a century Britain has had an extensive community of individuals interested in the alien flora. Botanists there have long enjoyed access to a substantial body of published information on the distribution of alien plants, notably the recent publications of Clement & Foster (1994) and Ryves, Clement & Foster (1996). This is in part a consequence of a more urbanized landscape and society, with numerous plants introduced as a result of large-scale, long-term global commerce. The wool trade in particular generated a huge body of British alien records, especially in Scotland, and in parts of southern England where wool ‘shoddy’ was applied as a dressing to agricultural land. Scientific interest in the alien flora of Ireland has always been more sporadic, and the records more scattered, too many of them unpublished or ignored.
Taken in isolation, these alien records may sometimes seem trivial or inconsequential but they indicate when a plant that may become a botanical denizen, a landscape feature or an agricultural or forestry pest was first introduced or became established. The data in this Catalogue, arranged on a county by county basis, will provide vital clues to the history, spread, ecology and mode of establishment of individual invasive species.
This valuable contribution to the Irish floristic literature will serve as an essential reference and a benchmark for future research, just as Cybele Hibernica and Robert Lloyd Praeger’s Irish Topographical Botany did for native plants a century ago.
Tisbury, Wilts, UK August 2002
In 1988, after encountering many new alien plants at Foynes Port, my enthusiasm for such plants grew, and by 1992 I had started to compile information systematically for this Catalogue. Throughout the intervening years I have received much encouragement and help from many other botanists and friends, to whom I am most grateful.
An important part of the work was the checking and redetermination of herbarium and my own specimens. For this, I would like to thank the referees and specialists of the Botanical Society of the British Isles. In particular, I want to thank Eric Clement and Bruno Ryves. From my first stimulating meeting in 1994 with Eric to discuss an outline for a catalogue, he has determined many specimens (some of which had lain unidentified for years), and his letters were always packed with information. Bruno determined nearly all the difficult alien grasses in the National Herbarium as well as Amaranthus, and he too was an excellent correspondent. I would also like to thank Dr John Akeroyd who checked all the chenopod specimens in the National Herbarium and the following botanists for determining further specimens for me: Dr Tim Rich (crucifers), Dr Humphry Bowen (Sedum), Dr Norman Robson (Malva and Hypericum), Dr John Edmondson (Poa compressa), Paul Stanley (Conyza), Dr P.F. Yeo (Aster and Acaena), Dr R.K. Brummitt (Calystegia), Dr R.M. Harley (Mentha), Dr R.J. Gornall (Saxifraga) and M.J. Southam (umbellifers). Several other referees who determined specimens independently of this work are named in the Catalogue. The work of yet other BSBI referees in the past is also much appreciated, and they have been acknowledged in earlier publications.
Unpublished records and information were kindly provided by the following people: John Akeroyd, Charmian Arbuckle, Aideen Austin, Stan Beesley, Catherine Bell, Valerie Bond, Catriona Brady, Con Breen, Joe Caffrey, Martin Cawley, Eric Clement, Joanne Colthup, Don Cotton, Tom Curtis, Graham Day, Declan Doogue, Ro FitzGerald, Howard Fox, Rosemary Goode, Roger Goodwillie, Philip Grant, Ian Green, Paul Green, Paul Hackney, John Harron, Toby Hodd, Jim Hurley, Frank Jeal, Matthew Jebb, Daniel Kelly, Mark McCorry, Ian McNeill, Vicky Morgan, David Nash, Robert Northridge, Margaret Norton, Murrogh OBrien, Seán O’Gaoithín, Ciaran O’Keeffe, Tony O’Mahony, Jim O’Malley, Austin O’Sullivan, John Parnell, Chris Preston, Michael Quirke, Paddy Reilly, Julian Reynolds, Tim Rich, Peter Roche, Veronica Rowe, Brian Rushton, Thomas Ryall, Maura Scannell, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Clive Stace, Tanya Strevens, Donal Synnott, Maureen Taylor, Nesta Tirard, Steve Waldren, John Wann, Jim White, John Wilde, Elinor Wiltshire, Shaun Wolfe-Murphy, Mike Wyse Jackson and Peter Wyse Jackson. Their contribution has undoubtedly added much to this work. I thank everybody listed, and particularly would like to single out Ian McNeill and Paul Green for giving me many previously unpublished records. Mrs Jeanette Fryer also generously sent me details of her Irish Cotoneaster records.
I acknowledge with gratitude the interest and help of Miss Maura Scannell, formerly of the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, who gave me free access to the herbarium while still under her charge, and who, since her retirement, has always responded fully to any queries, and brought a number of relevant records and references to my attention.
Over the last few years, I have spent numerous days in the three main Irish herbaria, where I was given great freedom to work on my own, and assistance when I needed it. My particular thanks go to Dr Matthew Jebb at the National Botanic Gardens, Paul Hackney at the Ulster Museum, Belfast and Dr John Parnell at Trinity College, Dublin. For extra assistance I am very grateful to Berni Shine and Grace Pasley in the herbarium at the National Botanic Gardens and Osborne Morton at the Ulster Museum.
I would like to thank Sarah Ball and Colette Edwards for their help, always willingly given, in the library at the National Botanic Gardens, and I also thank staff in the library at the Royal Irish Academy.
Drafts of the Catalogue were read and proof read by Julian Reynolds more times than by anybody else! His efforts were greatly appreciated, as were those of Matthew Jebb who made many constructive suggestions along the way. Matthew, ever cheerful, also undertook the final, specialized and crucial task of preparing the manuscript as a publication of the National Botanic Gardens.
I would like to thank John Akeroyd and David Nash for commenting on nearly complete drafts; David and Anita Pearman for kindly inviting me to Frome St Quintin so that I could view the pre-publication maps for the New atlas of the British and Irish flora; Paul and Catherine Hackney for their hospitality in Belfast; Conor Cahill for translating my computer files; and Paula O’Regan for the photograph of Montbretia used on the cover, which was specially taken on the Dingle Peninsula in 2002.
I would like to acknowledge the Dublin Port and Docks Board for annual permits to botanize in the port area since 1988, resulting in many new records.
The Botanical Society of the British Isles kindly awarded me a grant in 1995 from its Botanical Research Fund, which was put towards expenses for a visit to the Ulster Museum in 1996. Finally, I would like to thank Donal Synnott, Director of the National Botanic Gardens, who had faith in the proposed catalogue years ago, offering to publish it and then providing funding in the summer of 1996 for me to work on alien plants in the herbarium.
On a personal note, I would like to say how much the encouragement, support and tolerance of all my family have meant to me. My mother Suzanne OBrien gave me the ‘Flower Fairies’ books at a very early age (with pictures of alien Chicory, Tansy ... ); more recently, my father Murrogh OBrien provided me with information about shipping and imports at Foynes Port, and also rowed me across the Shannon estuary to do field work; and my aunt Elinor Wiltshire facilitated my botanical work in London and located obscure references for me. This project has been going on for so long that Conor, Elinor and Owen have had time to grow up and leave home! Finally, this Catalogue would never have been completed without the help of my husband Julian – I cannot thank him enough, and I dedicate this book to him.
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