Posts tagged with: 'trees'

Oak (An Daire) – Thursday Trees

A fully mature Oak is certainly one of the most beautiful trees in the Irish or any landscape.

In Ireland, we enjoy two native varieties – the Sessile (Quercus petraea) and the Pedunculate (Quercus robur). Acorns on the former have no stalks, while on the latter, they have. Sessile leaves do have stalks, as well as tiny hairs on the pale underside. While Sessile is the dominant variety in the West of Ireland, we unfortunately boast very few trees in this part of the world, due to our bog-covered, rain-lashed landscapes. Indeed, it is in part the rarity of our tiny remnants of Atlantic Oak and mixed woodland that makes them so precious and special.

Oak leaves

Oak leaves, Lough Key Forest Park, Roscommon

Possibly Ireland’s two most famous trees, each estimated at over 500 years old, are the “Brian Boru Oak” near Tuamgreaney, East Co. Clare and the King Oak in Charleville Estate outside Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

In the picture below of the Brian Boru, you can appreciate the size. Indeed, this tree has unfortunately been severely cut back over the centuries and no longer demonstrates what would have been its natural girth and bulk.

Oak, The Brian Boru

The Brian Boru Oak, Co. Clare

Oak Lore

Among the trees of Ireland, the Oak is considered king. Known for its endurance and longevity, even today it is synonymous with strength and steadfastness. If you were to ask anybody on the street which is the ‘strongest’ or ‘most impressive’ tree, they would surely suggest Oak. Among legends and myths, this tree stands as the noble; almost the Tree of Life. Traditionally, it was a symbol of strength, kingship, endurance and fertility and is still generally considered the King of Trees. Throughout Irish history, its significance is referred to. The Brehon Laws protected the Oak and the other ‘chieftain trees’. It is likely that several Celtic and Christian religious sites were located next to Oak woods, due to their spiritual importance.

Websites of interest on the subject of Ireland’s native trees include The Woodland League and The Native Woodland Trust.

Visit the preamble post on native trees of Ireland.

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Sycamore (An Seiceamair) – Thursday Trees

Although non-native, the Sycamore can be found all over Ireland and is widespread and common. It was introduced to Ireland during the 16th and 17th Centuries.

The Sycamore is a deciduous tree, whose leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow and brown in autumn before falling. It is often found in hedges and in public parks. Growing up to 35 m, the tree has a 5-lobed leaf, with toothed edges. A member of the Maple family, its fruit is borne in what young Irish children call ‘helicopters’.

It can be difficult to distinguish from the Field Maple, another non-native. However, the Sycamore’s ‘helicopter’ has its wings at angles to eachother, while the Field Maple’s form more of a straight line. Did you know that the correct name for these helicopters is samaras ?

The bark on young trees is quite smooth and grey, but turns scaly and begins to break up on older trees.

One amusing aspect about the Sycamore I do like is that, because it is not a native tree, there is no Irish folklore attached to this tree. Proof positive that it isn’t from these parts!


Sycamore Leaf

Sycamore Tar Spot

In recent years, Sycamores in Ireland seem to be subject more and more to the Tar Spot, a black fungus on the leaves (see photo). Apparently, this disease, caused by a pathogen, results in no ill-effect for the tree.

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Scots Pine (An Péine Albanach) – Thursday Trees

We have three native conifers in Ireland, of which the Scots Pine is one.

The Yew, with its dark foliage and red berries, is traditionally found around graveyards. Its poisonous qualities kept the cattle away from trampling on graves.

The Juniper is most often little more than a sprawling bushy shrub, which grows up to around 2 – 3 metres and begs the question as to whether or not it should be considered a tree at all. Indeed, on limestone pavement such as that around Lough Mask in south Mayo, it is prostrate.

The Scots Pine has a characteristic flat top and reddish upper branches, when mature. The timber it produces is known as red deal.

Scots Pine

Scots Pine

The Scots Pine was one of the earlier forest trees to become established in Ireland, about 9,000 years ago after the last great ice age. It grew on the lower slopes of uplands and mixed with oak and elm. Its spread declined over thousands of years and appears to have died out many hundreds of years ago. Buried Scots Pine stumps are often found in bogs of the West of Ireland, killed off by the increasing wetness.

The tree was re-introduced from Scotland during the 18th Century and can grow up to around 35 – 40 metres. Although generally a little smaller in Ireland, nevertheless, it can grow into an impressive tree here also. This is due to it being often found alone or in small groups, thus gaining maximum sunlight and moisture. I think it is one of our most beautiful trees.

Scots Pine, bark with lichens

Bark of a Scots Pine, showing lichen

The bark of the Scots Pine is quite variable, with the young bark on small branches being thin and often orangey red in colour. The bark on the trunk of a mature Scots Pine is more reddy brown, almost purple and forms plates of up to 5 cm thick, one on top of the other, with deep fissures in between. Lichens often grow in these fissures on the bark (see photo).

The needles grow in pairs, are blue-green in colour and about 5 cm in length. They normally remain on the tree for 2 – 3 years, with the old needles turning yellow in September and October, before they fall.

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