Each tree has been nominated by someone who feels close to a particular tree, and now the final 15 go through to a public vote.
Unlike other contests, the story behind the tree is the most important aspect, not the age, beauty or height.
Organiser Tom Roche, from charity and forest campaigning group, Just Forests, yesterday launched the vote on RTÉ’s The John Murray Show.
He said: “We’re trying to get people across Ireland to look around them and appreciate the national heritage that’s at their doorstep. So we came up with this idea of inviting a number of people to identify their special tree.”
The competition also aims to raise awareness of Ireland’s dependency on imported timber.
Tom firmly believes everyone has a special tree and invited people to submit a story with their nomination to explain what that tree means to them.
Hotelier and TV presenter Francis Brennan nominated an ash tree in Co Clare. He said: “This tree just has unbelievable bark, it’s all diamond-shape — it’s beautiful.
Horticulturist and former model, Marie Staunton, meanwhile, put forward a strawberry tree from the Botanical Gardens. During her studies, Marie had to learn the Latin names for all the plants in the garden, and this strawberry tree, the Arbutus x andrachnoides, was the first name she learned. She said: “It’s the one I visit every time I go in, purely because it has the most beautiful bark. It has a smooth, glossy, bark and when the sun hits it, it shines like someone’s polished it up. It’s absolutely gorgeous.”
The vote is open from now until October 31. The tree with the most votes will go forward as Ireland’s nomination for the European Tree of the Year 2015 competition.
Joanne O’Riordan, Millstreet — Oak Tree
One of only seven people living with Tetre-amelia syndrome, Joanne is well-known for her documentary No Limbs No Limits. She has also previously been named Cork Person of the Month and Young Person of the Year. Joanne nominated an oak tree in Millstreet Town Park, Co Cork.
“My tree is important to me as it was planted by the Boys’ National School in Easter 1997. The students at the time and the principal Jim Bradley decided to set this tree in honour of me.
“The tree was, in their words, like me. At the start it was small and delicate, almost like me as a baby.
“As the tree grew, so did I. The tree was like a new companion for me.
“Like my life, the tree has its ups and downs, this tree has battled storms, constant threats, and everything imaginable. But it still grows, and I grow with it.”
Patsy Dan Rogers, Tory Island — Sea Holly
An artist, musician and as ‘King of Tory’, Patsy Dan Rogers is the island’s best known resident.
As a young man, he was one of the leading campaigners against the government’s plan to resettle islanders onto the mainland. He nominated his tree because of its significance to the locals.
He said: “Many people have tried to get trees to grow on Tory Island over the decades but to no avail — except for this tree here at the parochial house. As time passed, a ditch down to the sea fed the tree with sewage. It is the centre of the Tory Island celebrations: it’s our Christmas tree as well as our Easter tree.
“This tree is out on its own just like Tory Island is out on its own in the North Atlantic. It is so Tory that it doesn’t need help. I would die for that tree.”
Rachel Allen, Ballymaloe — Weeping Willow
At the age of 18, Rachel Allen moved from Dublin to Cork to study at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Now a busy chef, author and mother, Rachel teaches at the school and has written four bestselling cookery books. Her popular TV series for RTÉ and the BBC have been broadcast internationally and she frequently appears on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen.
For the competition, Rachel has nominated a weeping willow.
She said: “Here in Ballymaloe we are blessed with an abundance of awesome trees of all shapes and sizes. However, my favourite tree is this weeping willow in our back garden.
“I just love this tree. For me it encompasses all that I hold dear. It is nurturing, inviting, caring, cosy and it renews my spirit each time I pass it by on my way to the kitchen.”