There was a mixture of emotions when visiting the Meadow Saffron – Naked Ladies is another common name, hence the title – at one of its two sites on the banks of the River Nore in Co. Kilkenny. It seems that these are the only two sites in the country where this plant is still growing in the wild so it really is a case of seeing something very rare and, in this light, there is a sense of great gratitude and a feeling of great privilege simply to be able to see them. There is also that nervous feeling that this could all change; that these could vanish as other populations have vanished over the years and that I was looking at plants for what could be the last time so there is a certain nervousness and a shadow of sadness on these occasions. Of course, there is also hope, hope that these beautiful plants will survive for future years, for future generations to admire and enjoy.
One family which is central to this story is that which owns this land. We often fail to recognise the enormous contribution our farmers make to the conservation of our natural heritage. This meadow looks so perfectly natural on the banks of the River Nore but, of course, it is only so because of the careful management of the landowner who treats it in a manner sympathetic to the growth of the Meadow Saffron rather than as a section of the farm to be managed in a way to bring greatest financial return. We owe such families a great debt of gratitude for their conservation of the land and the precious plants growing on it.