Eye on nature: Can you eat these red berries?

Eanna Ní Lamhna on poisonous mushrooms and a butterfly escaped from Malahide Castle

On holiday in Ireland in May 2019, I took this photo of some flowers along the Great Western Greenway near Westport. I’d like to identify them, but so far have had no success. – Cait Layton Hampton, Virginia, United States

These are house leeks. The rosettes look grey and fuzzy so it's most likely the spiderweb type – Sempervivum arachnoideum. This is a garden plant, so-called because of an old custom of growing them on the roof of the house to keep away illness. It has escaped into the wild.

These red berries are abundant this year in a nearby woodland edge. What are they and are they edible? – Mary Doogan, Longford

These are the berries of the guelder rose, a native small tree. They will make you sick if you eat them raw – cook first!


While at Malahide railway station in late July, this large butterfly, surely 4 inches in width, flew by me and landed. – Tony McCarthy, Malahide

It is not native to these parts – yet anyway. It must have escaped from Malahide Castle Butterfly House.

I found lots of this red mushroom growing singly in a woodland with beech trees in Wicklow in late August. Are they unusual? – M McLeer

It is one of the Russula mushrooms – a huge group, several of which are red in colour. The colour of the spore print helps with identification. Don’t chance eating it!

I wonder if you could identify this bird. The picture was taken by my daughter in Cork recently. – Brendan Moloney, Dungarvan

This is a juvenile goldfinch. Birds just out of the nest have a completely brown head with none of the lovely red, white and black markings of the adult.

Billy Flynn sent this lovely picture of a gold spot moth seen in Co Monaghan. Its green caterpillars feed on wetland plants.

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