Thursday Trees – Oak (An Daire)

Oak leaves, Lough Key Forest Park, Roscommon

Oak leaves, Lough Key Forest Park, Roscommon

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

In Ireland, we most typically have the Sessile and the Pedunculate. Acorns on the former have no stalks, while on the latter, they have. Sessile Oak leaves have tiny hairs on the pale underside.

Possibly Ireland’s most famous Oak tree, estimated at 1,000 years old, is the “Brian Boru Oak” in East Co. Clare.

In the picture below, I do believe that’s Andrew St. Ledger ‘posing’.

The Brian Boru Oak, Co. Clare

The Brian Boru Oak, Co. Clare


Thursday Trees – Sycamore (An Seiceamair)

Although non native, the Sycamore can be found all over Ireland and is widespread and numerous. 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 Sycamore has a 5-lobed leaf, with toothed edges. A member of the Maple family, its fruit is borne in what all young Irish children call ‘helicopters’.

It can be difficult to distinguish the Sycamore from the Field Maple, another non-native. However, the latter generally has three largish lobes towards the top of its leaf, with two distinctly smaller ones at the bottom. The Sycamore’s lobe sizes are less differential. Also, the Sycamore’s ‘helicopter’ has its wings at angles to eachother, while the Field Maple’s form more of a straight line.

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

Sycamore Leaf

Sycamore Leaf

In recent years, Sycamores in Ireland seem to be subject more and more to the Tar Spot, a black fungus on the leaves.

Spring Walks in Poland

If you’d like to come walking, with the superb service of a wonderful local guide, if indeed you’d like to spot some elk, deer, birds including woodpeckers, eagles and storks, maybe locate some wolf and lynx tracks, then keep reading.

See some pictures from our previous trips at
The dates are March 5 to March 9, 2009.
Places are strictly limited.
Red Marsh Reserve, Biebrza NP, 2007

Red Marsh Reserve, Biebrza NP, 2007

So why not join us in Biebrza, for a few days walking in wonderful Poland ? If you love being outdoors, then you’ll love this.

For further information and all the trip details, just get in contact.



Biebrza River in flood, March 2008

Biebrza River in flood, March 2008

In March 2007 and 2008, I organised a short trip for nature lovers to the great National Parks of North-East Poland. Now I’m doing it for the third time.

This year’s trip will be uniquely to Biebrza National Park (river marshlands and forests).


Thursday Trees – Scots Pine (An Péine Albanach)

Scots Pine

Scots Pine

We have three native conifers in Ireland.

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 3 metres and begs the question as to whether or not it should be considered a tree at all.

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

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, perhaps 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 very tall here also. This is due to it being often found alone or in small groups, thus gaining maximum sunlight and moisture.

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 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).

Bark of a Scots Pine

Bark of a Scots Pine

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.

Thursday Trees – Preamble

Scot's Pines at sunset, Co. Sligo

Scots Pines at sunset, Co. Sligo

A tree is considered to be a large, perennial, woody plant with secondary branches supported by a primary trunk. Most authors consider a tree species as being one which regularly reaches 6 m (20 ft) tall.

A native tree is considered to be one which is present in the region in question today, and has been continuously present in that region since a certain period of time. In the case of Ireland, this is generally taken as being a species that colonised the island during the retreat of ice at the end of the last ice age.

As such, native Irish trees include :

Alder, Crab Apple, Ash, Birch (Silver and Downy), Blackthorn, Cherry (Common and Bird), Elm (Wych), Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Juniper, Oak (Sessile and Pedunculate), Poplar (Aspen), Rowan (Mountain Ash), Scots Pine, Strawberry Tree, Whitebeam, Willow (Bay, Eared, Goat and Grey) and Yew.

Well established and well known non-native species, like the Horse Chestnut, Beech and Sycamore, are believed by most to be native also.

Each Thursday, I will endeavour to introduce one of these tress, with photos where possible.

Catwalk for Blackberries

I was sitting at the table, sipping a cup of tea yesterday, when this big black cat, with white paws, walked across the back garden.

In our place, we’re blessed with a natural ditch that forms one of our garden boundaries. The cat proceeded to jump up from the garden onto the ditch, then pause. After looking around, he stood up on his hind legs and pulled a blackberry off the bush. He repeated the trick and then did it for a third time. Having yanked three berries from their briars, he headed off, presumably satisfied.

Has anybody ever witnessed this by a cat ?

Autumn in the West

I’ve always loved autumn and so, what better time to start this blog ?

I was over in lovely Leitrim last week, spending some (limited) time in the woods after a meeting in Carrick on Shannon. As is my wont, when I have a spare slot of maybe 60 minutes, I went to a wood I know near Lough Key Forest Park, to look for some deer.

The last time I had been really lucky, spotting four female Fallow Deer. That was back in summer. They were drinking at the little stream. They quickly noticed my presence and fled into the surrounding plantation*.

Anyways, this time there were no deer. But just as my allotted time was nearly up, didn’t a gorgeous red squirrel pop out from the undergrowth, no more than four metres from where I was crouched down. He looked at me, paused for a second and then scurried off across the track and disappeared. Thrilled with myself, I was getting up when I heard a ruffle in the trees above me. I looked up and spotted another red jump from one tree to another.

This is a great spot. I have a great visit each time I go. The plantations have a covering of mushrooms the likes of which I have never seen anywhere else – even other plantations of the same species – Sitka Spruce.

The ground under the coniferous plantation is simply covered in, among others, Sickeners, Butter Caps and Common Puffballs.  Under the deciduous tress, I found Chanterelles, Common Yellow Russulas and slimy Porcelein Fungus, but like all others and because it was mid afternoon, I left them there.

Plantation * : Andrew St. Ledger and Aidan Corcoran suggested that we not grace what Coillte and private conifer growers have done to our national landscape with the glorious words “woodland”, “wood” or “forest”.