The Kerry Slug (Geomalacus maculosus)

Dingle’s exotic Lusitanian Flora and Fauna

By Bernie Goggin, Naturalist

DISTRICT DIRECTOR: Mícheál Ó Coileáin / EDITOR: bernie goggin

Some years ago I was doing a piece to camera for a BBC series in the valley on the Dingle side of the Conor Pass resting my hand on an old bothán when I felt something squiggle underneath, it was the elusive Kerry Spotted Slug. Perfect for TV because to demonstrate its difference from all Ireland’s slugs all you have to do is put the frighteners on it. On the palm of my hand it formed a perfect circle.   The Radio Times made this clip the documentary highlight of the week, though they got my name wrong.

The Kerry Slug (Geomalacus maculosus)
The Kerry Slug (Geomalacus maculosus)

Largely confined to Kerry and the northwest of Spain how it got here after the Ice Age has been much debated in scientific circles. Most likely like the Natterjack Toad carried by birds. It can be found on our damp hills and in the woods of Killarney where it is more yellow.

 Though much more widely distributed in western Europe the toad more than most Lusitanian species fits the newer scientific term Atlantic Flora and Fauna. Found on the Dingle Peninsula and areas bordering Castlemaine Harbour where it was previously believed to be confined to until it was formally discovered near Castlegregory in the sixties and now known to be the main population centre. Earlier the retired zoology Professor Gresson had seen one run across his lawn in Castlegregory but thought somebody was setting him up!

Its evocative calls helped to make a RTE radio program win a pan European prize. Not formally recorded from Ballyoughterough Ballyferriter it was lost when the golf course was developed. Nowadays great efforts are being made to safeguard the remaining Kerry population. Farmers are paid to create ideal habitat by digging and maintaining ponds, young toadlets being provided by the Dingle Aquarium.

When I was first exploring the Flora with the renowned naturalist Michael Long the most exciting site was the Conor Pass in June where the Lusitanian Flora makes a spectacular display on the dripping cliffs.

Saxifrage Hirsute
Saxifrage Hirsute
Greater Butterwort (Pinguicula Grandiflora)
Greater Butterwort (Pinguicula Grandiflora)

What people passing will first notice are the long stalked white fluffy flowers of two species of saxifrage and the very variable hybrids, and they will then notice the floral pride of Kerry the Great Butterwort {Pinguicula grandiflora} which looks like a large violet. Its rosette of leaves stuck directly on the rock as it does not need much soil being insectiverous feeding on midges. The commonest of the saxifrages {Saxifrage spathuralis} is known as St Patrick’s Cabbage, the much rarer one the Kidney Saxifrage [Saxifrage hirsuta] and the many hybrids called London Pride are favourites of English rock gardeners, hence the odd names.

Cornish Moneywort (Sibthorpia Europaea)
Cornish Moneywort (Sibthorpia Europaea)

The sole flower confined in Ireland to the Dingle Peninsula [Sibthorpia europaea] Cornish Moneywort so called from its English location where it grows under bridges unlike here is on the Pass now recently reduced to a single plant. However, this delightful little creeper still grows on a few other sites between Dingle and Camp.

One comment

  1. ‘Dingle’s exotic Lusitanian flora and fauna’ .. coming across the elusive spotted Kerry Slug squiggling under the resting palm of his hand .. along with the natterjack toad perhaps carried here by birds after the ice age ..the Conor Pass in June where the Lusitanian Flora makes a spectacular display on the dripping cliffs… naturalist Bernie Goggin’s memories and experiences from a life-long interest in the Atlantic flora and fauna on the Dingle Peninsula. A treasure chest of stories.

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