Peculiarly, there were no newpaper headlines; nor did it make the news on tv or radio – I had been listening – but this morning some hundreds of naked ladies gathered on the riverside meadows of the picturesque village of Inistioge in Co. Kilkenny.
It didn’t seem to bother the local population in the slightest; nobody took the least notice. Drivers in cars and trucks crossed the beautiful ten-arched bridge without as much as a sideways glance; school children had their normal mid-morning break and seemed to be engrossed in their games and not to notice these ladies at all; the cows across the river simply lay down at the boredom of it all – nothing new to them at all.
Of course, the naked ladies are the annual flowering of the Meadow Saffron, a rather scarce plant in Ireland, and found only in a small number of moist riverside meadows where the strong grass supports its weak flower stems. The “Naked Lady” name is applied not only to Colchicum autumnale but to several plants which produce their flowers in the absence of their foliage. In the case of the Meadow Saffron, the foliage appears in spring, nourishes the bulbs so they can produce their flowers in autumn.
Another riverside site, near Thomastown, has a number of white-flowered plants – a friend visited during the past week and reported seeing them again this year – but there are no white flowers in Inistioge; they are all pink, blushing?