Bermudiana Having “Tough Time” In Ireland

August 18, 2017

The Sisyrinchium bermudianum, known locally as the Bermudiana, is thought to be native to the island, but also grows widely in Ireland, though the flower has a tougher time of it in that more northern climate, its flowers often struggling to open.

A story in the Irish Times said “Every spring in Bermuda a little plant comes into flower, sprinkling the grass with jewel-like sparks of palest blue.

“Known as Sisyrinchium bermudiana, it was long thought to be limited to the island, where it appears on jewellery, in art and even on banknotes. It is Bermuda’s national flower, but it is also found in one other place in the world: Ireland.

“This low-growing grassland plant, first discovered here in 1845, is found around Lough Erne and Lough Melvin, in Co Fermanagh. There are also reports of it growing on the shores of Lough Allen and on the Beara Peninsula. It doesn’t grow in Britain.

“What nobody seems to know for sure is whether it’s native to Ireland and was introduced to Bermuda, or vice versa. Given its flowering habits – the star-like petals open only on sunny days – you’d expect it to prefer Bermuda’s humid subtropical climate to the uncertainties of Irish weather.

“Both countries, however, claim the plant. “Endemic to Bermuda” declares the Bermudan department of environment and natural resources, while our own National Botanic Gardens includes it on the red list of endangered Irish plants – although only in Northern Ireland.

“There it is protected under the Wildlife [NI] Order 1985, which makes it an offence to intentionally pick, remove, uproot, destroy or sell the plant in the North.

“Even its name is ambiguous. It’s often called “blue-eyed grass” – but that invites confusion with a much more common plant, Sisyrinchium montanum, which is widely grown as a garden plant in North America and sometimes escapes into the wild. The latter has bright or deep violet-blue flowers.

“Better, perhaps, to go with the Irish name of feilistrín gorm, which means “little blue iris” – an accurate description, as the plant is a member of the iris family, with narrow, grass-like leaves that form a miniature fan.

“In Bermuda it is officially declared to be ‘widely dispersed and thriving,’ but Sisyrinchium bermudianum has been having a tough time of it on this side of the Atlantic.”

“It’s a tricky one,” says Conor McKinney, landscapes manager with the conservation group Ulster Wildlife, which has been working to develop 3,500 hectares of species-rich grassland in Co Fermanagh. “It won’t open up on cloudy days, only when the sun is high in the sky. And it’s very small and quite delicate – so it is easily overlooked.”

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Category: All, Environment

Comments (9)

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  1. Toodle-oo says:

    *What nobody seems to know for sure is whether it’s native to Ireland and was introduced to Bermuda, or vice versa. *

    Id’ think it most unlikely that if it was first discovered growing in Ireland in 1845 that it was introduced to Bermuda from Ireland seeing it was already here when the Sea Venture crashed in 1609 .

    • Micro says:

      Ships had visited these Isles with people coming ashore long before the Sea Venture crash as well.

      • Toodle-oo says:

        None of them resulted in settlement though or changed the fact that the Bermudiana was already here .

        ‘Portuguese Rock’ anyone ?

        • Zevon says:

          What is the earliest recorded reference to Bermudiana being here?

  2. Athena says:

    Several years ago I also saw our ‘Bermudiana’ growing on Martha’s Vineyard.

    “Bermudians” sure do get around!

  3. Will says:

    I swear i saw one growing through the path stones in a plant nursery in Gloucestershire,UK..i swear i did and so does my mother. It was the oddest thing to see this little purple flower on a long blade of grass.

  4. Gerry Franklin says:

    Bermudians do get around is true as we have it growing and doing very well in Silverdale north of Auckland , New Zealand.
    The beautiful little Bermuda flower came here quite a few years ago and I know for sure the we aren’t the only gardens down under that loves to see a little bit of Bermuda smiling back as us in the summer months.

  5. Kathy says:

    Funny – a lot of the Irish were transferred to Australia as prisoners and also to Bermuda in Dockyard so it is entirely possible it all came from the Irish, who also seem to “get around!”

    It would make more sense to me that the flower seed followed the gulf stream to Ireland (rather than the reverse). It also seems that if the flower opens up only in full sun, it is used to full sun and perhaps originated in Bermuda.

    Just my thoughts…

  6. Evelyn says:

    A relative of the Bermudiana is native to Florida, but the genetics are different enough to classify it under a different name in the same family. The Florida native blue-eyed/purple-eyed grass does not grow widely due to widespread (and excessive) herbicide use.

    Has genetic testing been done to accurately place Ireland’s “Bermudiana” as Sisyrinchium bermudianum? That is what I wish to know, because it could easily be just a subspecies like in Florida…

    Also it struggles to open, the article says, in Ireland… perhaps it is more apt for our warm and humid Bermuda climates. and indeed is an introduced species to Ireland?