Friday, July 23, 2004

On the mountain -- Part 3

One last stop on my way up Coumaknock (mountain hollow), the ice-carved corrie on the flank of Mount Brandon.

Here's a little plant that flourishes in moist, shady microclimates high in the corrie: Saint Patrick's Cabbage.

It is not a cabbage, nor as far as I know does it have any connection with the saint. It is however almost unique among Irish plants in that it doesn't occur in Britain. It is one of the so-called Lusitanian species of Irish flora and fauna, native to warmer Mediterranean climes, with no intervening colonies. (Lusitania was the Roman province that corresponds mainly to modern Portugal.)

These plants and animals appear to predate human commerce. How they got to southwestern Ireland -- and nowhere in between -- is a mystery. Seeds, perhaps, in the belly of birds, but then what of the Kerry spotted slug?