Time to cherish our trees

HAVING a little time to spare on a visit to Cork last week, a walk into the UCC campus from the Western Road side was an enticing option. The freshly-greening trees were the magnet, surely one of the best views the college has to offer.

Stepping across the old bridge, the weeping willows on either side of the road caught the eye, one lapping the water, the other forming a canopy over students and visitors as they passed. The gaze then fell on two stately pine trees on the right, the taller one towering over everything.

The venerable buildings of the Aula Maxima were framed by large, mature trees on either side. UCC has two trees listed on the Champion Tree Register of Ireland — a Chinese privet in the president’s garden and a Wing nut located between the O’Rahilly building and the Boole Library. There are many other splendid specimens under UCC care and their history can be looked up on a Google earth tour of UCC’s significant trees.

The stock is mainly mature and in good

condition, according to the college. The tree management database also shows the trees’ excellent age profile, with regular planting over the years ensuring continual cover. There are, however, two areas of concern due to ageing — the main entrance gate and the quadrangle. Magnificent as they are, these areas will need replacement trees to be planted and back-up trees provided from elsewhere on campus.

Since its foundation in 1845, the college has cherished its trees, which have only got better with age. Their beauty is appreciated today while also showing that trees and buildings can co-exist and enhance one another.

Many people will be out walking among trees during the Easter bank holiday. I will be in Killarney National Park, which boasts one of the finest collections of trees in the country, some of which were lucky to again survive

illegal mountain fires recently — a perennial problem often highlighted in this column. But nobody ever gets prosecuted.

Environmentalists are protective of Killarney’s trees. Five years ago, for example, the felling of around 70 cherry blossom trees, which lined a popular, eponymous walk in the gardens of Killarney House, sparked outrage.

Many had been planted in the 1950s by the then owner of Killarney House, Irish-American millionaire John McShain. But, the National Park and Wildlife Service (NPWS) felled the entire avenue because the trees were diseased or in poor condition.

They planted new lines of cherry blossom trees and Pat Foley, a senior NPWS manager, promised their delicate pink blossoms would be blooming in three to four years. True to his word, they are blooming and the Cherry Tree Walk is again an uplifting sight.

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