Bantry Bay and the flanking peninsulas are rich in biodiversity, with a wide range of habitats including offshore islands, rocky shores, high mountains, broadleaf woodlands, peat bogs and lakes.
Special to the area are the so-called Lusitanian species which only occur in south-west Ireland and the north western part of the Iberian peninsula. These include Irish Spurge (Euphorbia hyberna), the insectivorous Large-flowered Butterwort (Pinguicula grandiflora) and St Patrick’s Cabbage (Saxifraga spathularis). On the Beara Peninsula there are several populations of Killarney Fern (Trichomanes speciosum), a rare fern that is listed on Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive. Other rare species of note include Kerry Lily (Simethis mattiazzii), Canadian St John’s Wort (Hypericum canadense), Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), Betony (Stachys officinalis) and Irish lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana).
The predominantly rocky shores of Bantry are rich in seaweeds and lichens, with a huge diversity of species present. The sub-tidal is also biodiverse, with large kelp beds and coralline algae or maerl beds.
A feature of the mountainous land around the bay is its peatlands with blanket bog and heath dominating the hills. These support typical peatland species such as sphagnum mosses, Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea), Deergrass (Trichophorum germanicum), cotton grasses (Eriophorum spp), Bog Asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum), sundews (Drosera spp) and Black Bog-Rush (Schoenus nigricans). In terms of heathers, the wetter areas typically support Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) and the driers areas Ling (Calluna vulgaris) and Bell Heather (Erica cinerea).
The mountain tops support some Arctic-alpine species such as Dwarf Willow (Salix herbacea), the very rare Recurved Sandwort (Minuartia recurva) and Stiff Sedge (Carex bigelowii). Also present in these areas is Fir Clubmoss (Huperzia selago).
The most extensive woodland in the area is Glengarriff Nature Reserve which is dominated by Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea), Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Downy Birch (Betula pubescens), with many other trees species also present including Scot’s Pine (Pinus sylvestris), Yew (Taxus baccata), Rowan (Sorbus acuparia) and Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo). A feature of the woodland is its rich bryophyte, lichen and fern flora, with many of the trees covered in these epiphytes.
Around Bantry Bay, a number of sites are designated as Special Areas of Conservation because they are of International Importance for certain habitats and species. Information on all these sites is available via the links at the bottom of the page.
Link and resources
The Marine Algal Flora of Bantry Bay: https://oar.marine.ie/handle/10793/132
Marine Communities of the Bantry Bay Area: https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/Emblow_et_al_1994_Bantry_Bay.pdf
Website about Irish seaweeds: www.seaweed.ie
Plant identification online resources: http://www.irishwildflowers.ie/index.html and http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/
Field trips and other botanical resources: https://bsbi.org/ireland
Bantry Bay’s islands are also botanically rich as documented in this book: http://www.sherkinmarine.ie/BantryBayIslandsFlora.htm
Website about Irish lichens: www.irishlichens.ie
Lichens of Ireland (book): https://www.collinspress.ie/paul-whelan.html
Lichen Ireland website: http://www.habitas.org.uk/lichenireland/
Ireland’s Red List: https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/RL8.pdf
Interactive map of rare bryophyte species in Ireland: http://dahg.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=71f8df33693f48edbb70369d7fb26b7e
Rare and Threatened Bryophytes of Ireland (book): https://blackstaffpress.com/product/rare-and-threatened-bryohphytes-of-ireland/
New Atlas of British and Irish Bryophytes (book): https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/blogs/new-atlas-british-irish-bryophytes
Nature Conservation Designations
Maps of all the protected nature conservation sites around Bantry Bay are available on: https://www.npws.ie/maps-and-data
Information on individual sites is available via the following links:
Special Areas of Conservation ( for habitats and non-bird species)
Sheeps Head SAC https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/sac/000102
Derryclogher (Knockboy) Bog SAC https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/sac/001873
Glengarriff Harbour and Woodland SAC https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/sac/000090
Caha Mountains SAC https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/sac/000093
Special Protection Areas (for birds)
Beara Peninsula SPA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/spa/004155
Sheep’s Head to Toe Head SPA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/spa/004156
The Bull and The Cow Rocks SPA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/spa/004066
Natural Heritage Areas
Conigar Bog NHA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/nha/002386
Leahill Bog NHA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/nha/002417
Trafrask Bog NHA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/nha/002371
Hungry Hill Bog NHA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/nha/001059
Pulleen Harbour Bog NHA https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/nha/002416