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Growing Wild at IMMA

We are delighted to present a new series exploring the biodiversity of the IMMA site. Although the grounds of IMMA are currently closed Sandra Murphy from our Visitor Engagement Team, would like to share with us the wild nature of the grounds of IMMA and how they are thriving during this summer season. This first article looks at the Wildflower meadow, and will be followed by articles exploring the birds and the butterflies found at IMMA. 

The Grounds and Formal Gardens at the RHK are managed and maintained by the Office of Public Works.


Growing Wild at IMMA

Over the next few weeks we will have the opportunity to learn a little more about IMMA and the particular biodiversity associated within the grounds of IMMA. Dog walkers and early morning strollers may be aware of the beautiful ornamental gardens, meadow and hedgerows, which are tended daily by our team of hardworking gardeners, headed by Chargehand Craft Gardener, Mary Condon from the OPW.

This mixed habitat within the grounds of IMMA is home to many wildlife secrets. There are approximately 27 species of birds, 9 species of butterflies, at least 3 species of dragonfly and even the humming-bird hawkmoth was spotted by Jason, from our technical crew, feeding on flowers in the courtyard. Two years ago nest boxes were installed on the main avenue and the gardeners keep a keen eye on the comings and goings of our feathered neighbours and their young, from spring onwards. During the colder winter months, feeding stations with peanut feeders, suet balls and seeds have been set up around the grounds. 

Pensioners’ Graveyard

The Pensioners’ Graveyard is a military cemetery which contains the graves of pensioners who lived in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. In 2018, the Pensioners’ Graveyard was transformed into a wildflower meadow for pollinators. This was achieved by introducing Hay Rattle, a flowering plant which disables the heavy growth of grass, providing space for wildflowers to thrive. The entrance gate to the meadow proudly displays the pollinator’s symbol from Biodiversity Ireland.

1. Gated Entrance to Wildflower Meadow in Pensioners’ Graveyard 2. View of Wildflower Meadow (June 2019)

Below are some photos of wildflower which can be seen in the meadow during the summer period.

Ox-eye Daisy
1. Pyramidal Orchid
2. Common Spotted Orchid
Ox-eye Daisy, Pyramidal Orchid, Common Knapweed, Hay Rattle
Ox-eye Daisy, Pyramidal Orchid, Common Knapweed, Hay Rattle
Hay Rattle Seedhead

Hay Rattle seedhead suppresses the production of grass growth, and allows for a better growth and display of plants in a wildflower meadow. The seeds are formed inside dry capsules which, when ripe, rattle (hence, the name Hay Rattle) and eventually release the seeds to the wind. 

Bully’s Acre

Bully’s Acre is one of Dublin’s oldest cemeteries and located in the grounds of IMMA close to the Richmond Gate and encompasses approximately 3.7 acres. In this area a variety of wildflowers, shrubs, native and non-native tree species can be found, providing a great source of rich nectar and pollen and seeds for bumblebees, butterflies and birds.

The photograph shows Common Red Poppy, Common Sow Thistle and the beautiful Red Campion, which is actually pink in colour. Teasel, which is a great source of food for the goldfinch (one of 27 species of birds which can be seen at IMMA), is a long narrow plant which can be seen in the background on the left.

Goldfinch feeding on Teasel seedheads in Autumn
1.White-tailed bumblebee. 2. Common Red Poppy.

White-tailed bumblebee (one of our important pollinating insects) collecting nectar from Common Sow Thistle.

On the right the Common Red Poppy – everybody’s favourite – in all its glory. In late Autumn the dried flower capsules contain black poppy seeds which make a wonderful rattling sound.

Campion, Ox-eye Daisy, Buttercup. Note on the left, the Common Nettle, an important plant in gardens for egg-laying butterflies such as Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell, all of which can be seen at IMMA on a sunny summer’s day.

The Officers’ Graveyard

Across the main avenue, a few yards from Bully’s Acre, we find the Officers’ Graveyard, where the higher ranking officers were buried.

Over the last few years, Mary and her team, have planted an abundance of Phacelia, Foxglove and Echiums. Red Valerian makes a wonderful backdrop on the old stone graveyard walls.

White-tailed Bumblebee on Phacelia
1. White-tailed Bumblebee on Phacelia 2. Foxglove with creeping cleavers

Many insects feed on cleavers (two ladybirds can be seen on top right of the plant). In Folk medicine, cleavers plant was used to relieve poisonous bites and stings.

Thank you to Mary Condon and Therese Thynne for access to the Wildflower meadow and to Mary in particular for her expertise in helping to identify some of the lesser known plants.



Further Reading

Gallery Voices

Famous Five Go Wild at IMMA

While the IMMA site is closed we will continue to explore the biodiversity of the IMMA site in this series of articles by Sandra Murphy from our Visitor Engagement Team. This time Sandra looks at the butterf...

by Sandra Murphy / Sun May 17th, 2020
Artist's Voice

Niamh O’Malley’s Memorial Gardens: A reflection piece

Writer Sue Rainsford reflects on Niamh O’Malley’s Memorial Gardens, 2008, featured in IMMA’s exhibition IMMA Collection: A Decade.

by Sue Rainsford / Sat Apr 2nd, 2016

A Celebration of History at IMMA

The Irish Museum of Modern Art is extremely fortunate to be housed in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, one of the finest 17th-century buildings in Ireland.

by / Fri Jun 12th, 2015
Curator's Voice

Two artists – Janet Mullarney and Tim Robinson

Here we reflect on two remarkable artists and people, Janet Mullarney and Tim Robinson, who we had the pleasure to work with and get to know over many years. Our thoughts are with their families and many fri...

by / Thu Apr 9th, 2020

Up Next

IMMA Collection. Summer days

Wed Apr 22nd, 2020
Here comes the sun… As we have now changed our clocks to daylight saving time and the evenings finally begin to stretch, a sense of warmer, brighter days around the corner may be helping to keep spirits up in uncertain times. The evolving seasons and cycles of the natural world and how we respond to them have always provided material for artists. The particular blend of possibility and nostalgia which our warmest season evokes makes it an injuring inspiration. In this Magazine article, Ciara Ball from our Visitor Engagement Team, invite us to have a look at selected artworks from the IMMA Collection that help us recall summers past and think of pleasures on the way. .................................................................................................. Children, Masterson’s Lane (1952) and Old Men Sitting, St Stephen’s Green (1952) by Nevill Johnson Though black and white, Nevill Johnson’s photographic depictions of Dublin in the 1950’s are flooded with sharp summer light, the freshness of browning limbs and laundry flapping, and the relief of a city bench on a hot day. [caption id="attachment_52751" align="alignnone" width="980"] (1) Nevill Johnson, Children, Masterson’s Lane, 1952, Selenium-toned gelatin silver print, 34 x 27 cm, Collection Irish Mu...

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June. A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. There are three exhibitions to visit  Hilary Heron: A Retrospective; Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s shop, café and gardens are all open.