The Ceíde Fields - Botany

Archaeology in Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland

Ceide Fields is covered by mosses, heathers, purple moor grass and plants usually not found in the ordinary countryside.

Here the landscape is an open brown bogland, there are no green fields.

The bog is very wet and is almost water (90%), the soil is so saturated that no micro-organisms can survive and devour the dead plants which don’t decay for this reason. Plants grow, wither, fall over and pile up forming a blanket of no decayed plants or bog. The sequence is repeated almost five thousand times.

The top 15 cm of the bog is partially dried, but it soaks up the water easily after rain. In this habitat special and common plants can be found. They include bog cotton, sundew, orchid, butterwort, milkwort and heather.

From the bog people get the traditional fuel, known as turf. After cutting away the top of the bog, the turf is traditionally cut in regularly shaped sods with a narrow spade called “slean” and laid out to dry on the ground. When the turf dries off and becomes sufficiently hard, it is stacked into clamps. The turf is ready for burning within few months.

Nowadays the turf is cut by a tractor-driven machine which cuts a groove and extrudes the “sausage turf” through pipes at the rear.