The Burren is botanically unique, for there is nowhere else in the world where arctic, alpine and Mediterranean plants grow together and at low altitude. We do find in Britain that there are places where arctic/alpine plants have survived the ice age, but they are rocky, inaccessible and rare.On the Burren the pre-ice age flora was Lusitanian, similar to the flora of Portugal, and some managed to cling on during the cold period, but alpine/arctic flora arrived during the ice-age and managed to hold on as relict species after the ice had gone.
Alpine flora are represented by the abundant mountain avens, [Dryas octopetala], which vie with the flourishing bloody cranesbill [Geranium sanguineum] white contrasting with the cranesbill's red. In Spring purple orchids and blue gentians add to the rainbow of colours that flaunt themselves in the grikes. Birdsfoot trefoil is also common and provides food for the butterflies.The beautiful, two-lipped white trumpet-shaped florets of eyebright are mixed in with other flowers, for eyebright [Euphrasia] is a semi-parasite which attaches itself to the roots of other plants to tap their nutrients, but it does need a lime-rich soil, which it finds in the grikes.
Trees are rare and quite stunted. Often found is juniper and also dwarf hazel. Juniper, once common in the British Isles, is now becoming rare due to loss of moorland habitat, so the Burren is a precious redoubt for it. The hazel is self-seeded, as no-one plants trees on these wind-challenged lands, but at least it gets a chance to seed, as hazel in England is subject to the predations of the American import, the grey squirrel, which gobbles up the nuts. But there are no grey squirrels in Ireland, and if there were, the Burren has resident pine martens, whose favourite lunch is grey squirrel, so it looks as if the hazel is safe for now. There is some scrubby deciduous woodland on some shaded slopes on the east of the area.
In places you find the occasional turlough [Irish for dry lake] which is a lough that only fills in wet weather and drains in dry conditions. Around these you find a standard wetland flora, including wild mint and watercress,especially when they are near a small bed of clay that enables boggy conditions to develop. The loughs are blessed with a fauna of amphibians, such as newts and frogs.
In summer butterflies luxuriate: Blue, small copper, fritillaries, red admiral, peacock and many others, including some rare ones blown in from warmer climes.Visitors might see the rare Burren green moth, only discovered in the 1940s.
Mountain hares are ever-present and while in the past they used to be hunted by people in need of food, there is now a cultural acceptance that no one should shoot them, but this does not save them from predatory raptors, such as kestrels. A wide range of bird, including snipe and woodcock can be seen at times.