RECC | Entry 3

Entry 3

Collecting at IMMA

March 19th, 2017

Our second field trip was out to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) situated in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. This was was built in 1684. It was restored in 1984 and now houses the Museum of Modern art. We were inspired by this collection of herbs and wild plants that are growing in the gardens.

A lot of these plants are both native to Ireland and also have medicinal qualities. This gave us a more directed approach than our Bull Island trip, where we took an expedition basically just see what we could find.

During this trip, a lot of the growth was very low to the ground, and as it wasn’t in season, we weren’t able to follow the flowers to find our plants. Instead, we had to identify plants based on their leaf morphology. This is a bit harder initially, but is just as reliable as using flowers for identification.

The first plant we found that looked promising was a Cyclamen, growing around the base of a tree. I quite liked the look of it, as cyclamens are an ornamental plant, but it also occured to me that they’re naturally suited to the mediterranean. With the advent of climate change, we might see ourselves having to plant species that will be able to cope with our transforming environment. So the cyclamen was inspiring in that way, growing away in what was otherwise a cool and grey place, nothing at all like its homeland.

The next two plants we were interested in were sorrel and nettles. Sorrel is an great plant because it’s a pot salad / herb that often grows wild in ireland. During the Irish famine, the starving often had to scrounge for charlock (wild mustard), sorrel, water cress and nettles in order to keep the worst effects of hunger at bay. Sorrel also had the added benefit of being a cure for stings and grazes one might get while harvesting Nettles. Nettles being high in Iron and Vitamin C were good for keeping illness and anemia at bay. So the two plants kind of go hand in hand in how they grow and how they were used.

The last plant I wanted to get a sample from was valerian. Valerian is a great herb to help with sleep, with a tea being made from the root having a sedative effect. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the plants growin in the garden, even though they’re mentioned in the map.

This was a different type of trip to our Bull Island excursion. On the island we were directed by our curiosity towards the plants, looking for stressed out plants, or plants that look like they should struggle but were instead thriving. Here, we knew what types of plants we wanted to look for and had an approximate idea for where they were, and instead we wanted to see what types of endophytes live inside medicinal or edible types of plants. It will be illuminating to see what rich microbial biodiversity lives inside them, and if that has anything to do with their effects inside the human body.