As we move towards autumn, people everywhere are remarking how magnificent trees look this year. With favourable weather all summer, no wonder our wide variety of trees are wearing cloaks of lush green. Visitors, who so often remark how green Ireland is, talk about their admiration of roadside trees.
A few months ago, we mentioned the archway of branches over the entrance to UCC, from the Western Road side. Many other examples also come to mind. On the road from Cork to Tralee, for instance, there’s a splendid canopy at Ballyvourney along where the former Coláiste Iosagáin stands.
Our ancestors had huge respect for trees, some were seen as sacred, going back to druidic times. Trees like the yew and white thorn are part of Irish mythology and folklore. Yews were often planted in monasteries, other Christian sites and graveyards. Some old yews can still be seen in many old graveyards like that on the banks of the Maigue, in Adare, Co Limerick.
There could also be a practical reason for graveyard yews. Its leaves are poisonous to cattle and they may have been planted to keep animals out of graveyards, according to Christine Zucchelli in Trees of Inspiration.
The white thorn was also regarded as sacred and, when growing alone, was believed to be a haunt of fairies. Fairy trees are to be found in many parts of the country and, in the past at least, people were afraid to disturb them for fear of suffering misfortune or bad luck.
During the August bank holiday, an enlightening tree walk was held in the grounds of reopened Killarney House, in Killarney National Park, Co Kerry, where 700 trees, mainly beech, oak and Spanish chestnut, have been planted. They replace trees planted decades ago, of which a 200-year-old beech still stands majestically.
The grounds contain more than 20 tree species, including walnut, arbutus, birch and magnolia and a fine example of a lime tree avenue, all highlighted by a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide, Horacio Prieto.
New research, published in the Science journal, stresses the incredible powers of trees to draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Researchers suggest the planting of many more trees should be a priority in tackling climate change, with Ireland having enormous potential for new tree cover.
On that note, Pádraic Fogarty, of the Irish Wildlife Trust, says it’s “blindingly obvious” that we need a programme to bring trees back to our landscapes on a vast scale.
He calls for a combined approach with an emphasis on native trees, and to grow more trees in towns, cities and on farms. Large,permanent forests can be created on public land, on uplands and along river corridors.
A s we move towards autumn, people everywhere are remarking how magnificent trees look this year. With favourable weather all summer, no wonder our wide variety of trees are wearing cloaks of lush green. Visitors, who so often remark how green Ireland is, talk about their admiration of roadside trees.