Book reviews

Wildflowers of Ireland, A Personal Record

Zoe Devlin, the author of ‘Wildflowers of Ireland – A Personal Record’ (the cover of which is above) began a love affair with Ireland’s wildflowers when she was just eight years old.

That was when she was first shown a delicate wild orchid under a magnifying glass by an elderly relative her family regularly visited near Glenmalure Co Wicklow.

She remembers the trackway where she was shown the orchid, her reaction, which was ‘wow’, and the kindly old lady relative that introduced her to a life-long passion.

Into adulthood, the interest in wildflowers remained strong, and she also became interested in photography – the two interests perfectly complimented one another.

Over the decades Zoe amassed a large body of work, photographing Irish wildflowers all over the country. Then her daughter suggested she do something with all her nice photos.

That prompted her to set up a top-quality website, www.wildflowersofireland.net. That, in turn, attracted the interest of Collins Press, who approached her about doing a book.

This is a book that will appeal to those who have a great interest in nature, in flowers, and in stories about Irish flowers, but are not that interested in academic terms and terminology.

Zoe is not a professional botanist, but someone who simply has had a great interest in flowers in Ireland throughout her life.

Wildflowers, in case you didn’t know, Zoe says are flowers that are often called weeds when they are in a place that they are not wanted. Context is everything.

The stories in this book will leave a mark on the memory in the way an academic book about Irish wild flowers could never do.

Zoe describes, for example, the winter heliotrope, which was introduced to Ireland because it flowers in the winter, and can, thus, provide nectar to bees out of season.

Or the delicate orchids of the Burren, which are very small, tiny even, need particular bacteria in the soil to flower, and even then flowering can take as long as 14 years.

She talks about the invasive aliens, like rhododendron (which came in as a flowering plant from the Himalayas) – plants that have “gone mad and choked a lot of our natives”

It’s not all about the countryside either, as the author says that even in Dublin, orchids can be found on Bull Island in June, or yellow water lilies on the Grand Canal.

There is a lack of books about Irish wild flowers and this book certainly fills the gap. The text is engaging and  informative, the passion of the author is clear, and the photographs are superb.

Listen: Interview with the author, Zoe Devlin

Price: €29.99

Publisher: The Collins Press

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