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Native Irish Trees: A Symbol of Ireland’s Natural Beauty

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Native Irish Trees: A Symbol of Ireland’s Natural Beauty

Ireland is a country with a rich cultural and natural heritage, and its native trees play an important role in both. Our native Irish trees are a symbol of Ireland’s natural beauty. Each of these trees has its own unique characteristics, and they have been woven into Irish folklore and symbolism for centuries. In this article, we will explore some of the native trees of Ireland, including their Latin names, mature heights, and related Irish symbolism. A full list of native Irish trees has also been provided towards the bottom of this post.

    Native Irish Trees: A Symbol of Ireland’s Natural Beauty means planting native trees is not only important for preserving Ireland’s cultural heritage but also for protecting biodiversity and combating climate change.

    Native Irish trees have evolved to thrive in Ireland’s unique climate and soil conditions and provide important habitats for wildlife. By sponsoring the planting of a native Irish tree, you can contribute to Ireland’s natural heritage while creating a lasting legacy beyond your own life.

    IrishTrees.ie offers a range of sponsorship options for planting native trees in Ireland. By becoming a rewilding patron of Dunsany Nature Reserve, you can help support the restoration of this important habitat for wildlife while also contributing to Ireland’s natural beauty. Our native Irish trees are a symbol of Ireland’s natural beauty.

    There are many benefits of tree planting, most importantly is that planting trees is a crucial tool for combatting climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. By planting native trees in Ireland, we can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change while preserving our cultural and natural heritage.

    Ireland’s native trees are an important part of its cultural and natural heritage. Each tree has its own unique characteristics and symbolism, and they have been woven into Irish folklore and mythology for centuries. By sponsoring the planting of a native Irish trees, you will contribute to Ireland’s natural heritage while creating a lasting legacy beyond your own life. Our native Irish trees are a symbol of Ireland’s natural beauty.

    Here is a more extensive list of Native Trees – there are more but these are the most common from our perspective:




    Alder (Alnus) are among the most common and traditional trees in Ireland. They grow along riverbanks, beside freshwater loughs, and in moist places where their robust, fibrous roots may serve to stabilise the bank. Ross Island, Killarney, County Kerry, and the Gearagh, County Cork are home to alder woodlands, whereas Grantstown Wood, County Laois, is a unique example of a wet woodland on an alkaline soil.

    Alder, like most trees, produces eye-catching reddish catkins and tiny cones that hold seeds before the leaves appear. Alder prefer moist areas and can thrive in most types of soil. Alder grows quickly in rich, moist soil and is a profitable tree for timber. Round shields made from portions of alder trunks were employed in ancient Ireland.

    Afterwards, alder was referred to as “Irish mahogany” in the furniture trade and used to make clogs. Alder is used to construct sluice gates and other buildings alongside streams, rivers, and canals because it does not deteriorate while buried in water.

    Arbutus (Strawberry Tree)

    The arbutus (Arbutus unedo), often known as the strawberry tree, is a tiny evergreen tree that can grow up to 15 metres in height as a forest tree in Ireland. Given that it only grows natively in the Mediterranean and some regions of Ireland, it has an uncommon distribution.

    Arbutus is believed to have spread here via the land bridge from Brittany, unlike many of our other native trees, which came to us via Great Britain.

    This species, which is mostly found in County Kerry, particularly in the Killarney district, where it makes up a significant portion of the natural forest on the islands and lakeshores, is known as the strawberry tree due to the unusual shape and colour of its fruit. It can also be found in the open areas of Lough Gill in County Sligo and in Glengariff Wood in County Cork.

    Arbutus flowers in large quantities throughout November and December. The tree bears mature fruit and flowers simultaneously since the fruit takes a year to ripen. The fruit itself is edible, but it is not particularly appetising, as suggested by its Latin name, unedo, which means “eat only once.”



    The most prevalent tree in Irish hedgerows is ash (fraxinus excelsior), a species found in traditional woodlands. It takes well-drained soils and can grow in a variety of soil types, though not acidic ones.

    There are ash forests in the South Fermanagh region’s Hanging Rock, and the Burren. Ash is one of the last trees to go into leaf and one of the first to lose its leaves in the fall. The blossoms are extremely dark, almost black, and can be seen before the leaves appear.

    Winged keys in clusters form the seeds. In addition to being useful for hurley sticks, snooker cues, and furniture, the pale, solid wood makes good firewood.


    Aspen (populus termuloides) is the only poplar that is unquestionably native; all other poplars can be presumed to have been introduced, however there is ongoing debate regarding black poplars.

    Aspen will mature into a large tree. In the spring, the leaves smell lovely and make a characteristic sound as they gently rattle in the wind.

    Aspen grows in damp places and along lakeshores, as in Glenveagh, County Donegal.

    In addition to producing seeds on catkins, poplars also propagate vegetatively by new branches emerging from the roots, or suckers. Aspen can be propagated most easily by chopping through the roots and planting a sucker. It is advisable to exercise caution while planting aspens in well-drained, moist areas. They expand quickly and have a tendency to encroach on too large of an area. If you don’t mind an invasion, go for Aspen!


    In Ireland, there are two varieties of birch: silver birch (Betula pendula) and downy birch (Betula pubescens).

    The most common is the downy birch, which is a delicate tree with small leaves and fine branches, much like the silver birch. Catkins are the springtime blossoms that remain on the tree until autumn, when the ripe seed is inside.

     Though it prefers a sunny location, birch will grow in poor soils. Silver birch requires adequate drainage, although downy birch may tolerate damp locations. Birch woodlands are found all around, although they are particularly common on marginal soils, fens, and dried-out bogs like Ardkill Bog in County Kildare, as well as lake borders like Lough Ennell in Westmeath.

     Usually found growing in peat along bog edges and on light sand and gravel soils, birch is related to the Sperrins. Because it does not get too big, it makes an excellent attractive garden tree. Similar to alder, siskin and redpoll, two little seed-eating birds, like its seeds.

    Birch was used to build toghers, or pathways, in the past, generally over bog area. These days, plywood is produced using it more frequently.

    In Irish folklore, the birch was associated with purification and was often used in rituals to ward off evil spirits. It is mentioned in the Ogham alphabet as “Beith.”


    Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is a deciduous tree that is commonly found in hedgerows and woodlands in Ireland. It produces white flowers in early spring that provide a source of nectar and pollen for early-emerging pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The tree also produces sloes, which are an important food source for birds in the winter.

    Bird Cherry

    The northwest is where Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) is most commonly found, e.g., around Churchill and Lough Gartan, Co. Donegal.

    When the flowers are in bloom in the spring, around May, it is easiest to identify. Above the verdant foliage, the creamy-white blooms stand out as they are borne in rows along flower stalks measuring approximately 10cm in length. You have to remember where you saw the dark berries or small cherries in the spring since they ripen in August, when the trees may be harder to find. You might be able to identify them by tying a tie around the trunk.

    The bird cherry tree is a little, lovely tree that bears genuine blooms and grows voluntarily in good soil in a shaded spot, so it’s worth the effort.


    Wild Cherry

    Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) is often considered of our most beautiful trees, with hanging cherries that accompany its springtime blooms of white or very pale pink. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the leaves add a touch of autumnal colour.

    Cherry is prevalent in mixed deciduous forests as well as ancient field hedgerows where it may have been planted by humans. Old farm trees, such as crab apple and old kinds of apple, pear, plum, and damson that were historically cultivated in gardens and small orchards across the nation, are part of our rural heritage even if they are not native in the sense of ancient woods.

    It is frequently used as a decorative wood for furniture and joinery.


    Crab Apple

    Similar to the wild cherry, the crab apple (Malus) is a true natural species found in old woodlands, but it has also been purposefully planted around old farmsteads (and the fruit used to make crab apple jelly).

    Around the nation, hedgerows are home to crab apple trees. This little tree is ideal for gardening. It produces pretty pink or white apple blossoms in the spring, and the apples are a valuable crop and an autumn garden showpiece.



    Occasionally referred to as the Bour tree, elder (sambucus nigra) is frequently seen in rural areas next to abandoned farmhouses or byres. It is particularly abundant around old garbage tips or middens, where it benefits from the additional nutrients in the soil. It could be connected to badger setts in the wild.

    To elderly rural residents, the concept of purposefully planting elder trees—which sprout new growth after being chopped down and spread quickly across waste ground—may seem absurd. On the other hand, elder is a great plant for animals, with clusters of hanging dark reddish-black berries after its broad heads of whitish blooms.

    The truly native type, which is commonly used in landscape planting, has a great wildlife value. In most soil types, older seeds will happily germinate and develop into a tree. Elder berries and blooms can be utilised in cuisine and winemaking. The branches can be split to make a handmade flute or whistle, and the soft, pithy heart can be removed.

    In the wild, these hollow branches serve as both insect hibernation sites and nesting chambers for bumblebee larvae.

    Hawthorn / Whitethorn

    Our landscape was covered with hedges of hawthorn (Crataegus). Its delightfully fragrant ‘May’ flower is a feature throughout that month; in the autumn and winter, the naked twigs are coloured by the rich crimson haws. These are some of the berries that birds prefer the most.

    Hawthorn that hasn’t been pruned can only freely blossom and fruit, but hedges need to be trimmed to maintain them safe for cattle. Hawthorn hedges can be routinely pruned, or they can be allowed for a few years, after which the main stems are partially cut and inserted horizontally through the hedge. If the trunks of ancient hawthorn hedges are chopped back to the ground and allowed to sprout anew, they will even regenerate; however, they must be gated off to prevent farm animals from getting to the delectable young shoots and eating them.

    Hawthorn thrives in forests where there is enough light, such as open glades, “rides” through the forest, or along the edge.

    In fields where there may be an archaeological site, a lone tree may be left as a “fairy thorn.”



    Hazel (Corylus avellana) is a deciduous tree that is commonly found in hedgerows and woodlands in Ireland with a long history and numerous uses.. It produces yellow catkins in the early spring that provide a source of pollen for bees and other insects. The tree also produces nuts, which are an important food source for squirrels, birds, and other animals.

    In Irish mythology, the hazel was associated with wisdom and poetic inspiration, and it is mentioned in the Ogham alphabet as “Coll.”

    One of the foods linked to the earliest Mesolithic human settlements in Ireland are hazel nuts. These people also employed hazel as a strong, flexible wood for their homes. Coppicing hazel bushes, which means cutting them down to a stump, allows them to regrow. The thin timber poles that are produced during coppicing were utilised to build fences and wattle & daub. Traditional materials used to make eel and lobster traps include hazel.

    Hazel thrives as pure hazel woods or as an understorey in forests with oak and ash trees. Large tracts of limestone are covered with hazel scrub woods, especially on the north Clare Burren plateaus and soils that are formed from limestone in the Glens of Antrim. It’s frequently linked to an abundant ground flora of forest flowers.

    The springtime yellow “lambs tail” catkins of hazel are widely recognised, but the nuts really originate from tiny, bud-like structures that have a red tuft on them—these are the stigmas of the female flowers.


      In several of our oldest woodlands, the shrub layer is composed of the native species, the evergreen holly (Ilex aquifolium). It can be found in forests, or in the little ravines of the Sperrins or Donegal uplands, where rowan and holly can withstand the severe highland climate.

      It’s another visually pleasing small tree that grows slowly and densely, making it a great specimen tree or hedge for gardens.

      It is usually beneficial to put many holly trees together since holly trees are either male or female and only the female is capable of bearing berries. Both genders produce tiny, creamy blooms.

      They are green all year round, even though they shed their prickly leaves all year long—especially in the summer heat—and were historically employed, together with ivy, as symbols of the coming green life for midwinter or Christmas decorations.

      Holly is said to bring bad luck in certain places, hence it’s common to leave it as standards along a hedgerow. For woodcarving, the firm, light wood is prized.

      In Irish mythology, the holly was associated with protection and was often planted near houses for this reason. It is mentioned in the Ogham alphabet as “Tinne.”



      Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a peculiar plant that grows in rocky places, particularly on the Burren and in West Donegal, and frequently at the boundaries of woodlands.

      Typically found on limestone, juniper is one of our few native evergreens. It may be brought to locations outside of its normal range and will flourish on other types of soils, albeit this may not be seen as ideal. It might reach the size of a small tree under ideal circumstances.

      Similar to holly, juniper grows on many plants and produces blooms on distinct plants for each sex. The fruit is black, the bushes are tiny and often grow low, and it may be cultivated from seed. The berries are used to flavour gin.



      Oak (Quercus petraea) is a slow-growing deciduous tree that can live for over 500 years. It is a valuable tree for pollinators as it produces both male and female flowers that provide an early source of pollen and nectar in the spring. The acorns produced by the tree provide an important food source for many animals, including squirrels, deer, and jays.

      Oak (Pedunculate) – Although there are minor forests in most counties, true native oak can be difficult to find due to decades of harvesting and little tree replacement. Once ubiquitous throughout Ireland, natural oak was once widely distributed. Semi-natural oak forests frequently have some birch and ash in addition to scattered hazel, holly, and rowan in the understorey.

      Oak is highly valued for its endurance and aesthetic features, and it has been exploited for its beautiful timber for generations. It is frequently utilised in the production of veneers, barrels, and furniture. The seeds, or acorns, are far more noticeable than the male flowers on the oak tree, which are carried on fairly little catkins that emerge immediately before the leaves.

      Because oak trees do not provide a large harvest every year, it is worthwhile to gather a big amount during a good year. Native trees also include the English oak, or pedunculate. It can tolerate moist soil in the winter and is typically found in heavy lowland soils.

      Oak (Sessile) – The sessile oak, the predominant species found in Ireland’s most well-known forests, is the traditional Irish oak. Sessile oak is more frequently found in mountainous areas with poor acid soils. These woods may be found, among other places, in Glenveagh, Co. Donegal, the Glen of the Downs, Co. Wicklow, and Killarney, Co. Kerry.

      Their significance lies in their ecological role as homes for numerous animal and bird species, as well as hundreds of invertebrate species. Sessile acorns are devoid of a stalk, whereas pedunculate oak acorns are suspended on lengthy stalks.

      Although there are minor forests in most counties, true native oak can be difficult to find due to decades of harvesting and little tree replacement. Once ubiquitous throughout Ireland, natural oak was once widely distributed.

       Oak is highly valued for its endurance and aesthetic features, and it has been exploited for its beautiful timber for generations. It is frequently utilised in the production of veneers, barrels, and furniture. The seeds, or acorns, are far more noticeable than the male flowers on the oak tree, which are carried on fairly little catkins that emerge immediately before the leaves. 

      The oak tree is one of the most well-known native trees of Ireland, and it holds a special place in Irish mythology. It can grow up to 40 meters tall, and its leaves turn a golden-brown color in the autumn. The oak was a symbol of strength and longevity in ancient Ireland and is mentioned in the Ogham alphabet as “Duir.”


        Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is a deciduous tree that is commonly found in upland areas in Ireland. It produces white flowers in the spring that provide a source of nectar for bees and other insects. The tree also produces bright red berries in the autumn that are an important food source for birds.

        Mountain ash, another popular name for rowan, is a plant that gives colour to woodlands all across Ireland, especially in the highlands where it can thrive at a high altitude even on rocky soils. The whitish blossoms give way to crimson berries early in the growing season, which sustain thrushes throughout the winter.

         Throughout the winter, a mistle thrush will protect a rowan tree or holly as its eating area rather than as a place to build a nest. The rowan tree is a beautiful garden tree that grows well in most soil types but prefers well-drained locations.

        In Irish folklore, the rowan was thought to protect against evil spirits and was often planted near houses for this reason. It is mentioned in the Ogham alphabet as “Luis.”

          Scots Pine

          Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) is a coniferous tree that is commonly found in upland areas in Ireland. It produces male and female cones in the spring that provide a source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects. The tree also provides a habitat for many birds and mammals, such as red squirrels.

          The presence of pollen in bog soil samples suggests that Scots pine was a common plant in Ireland thousands of years ago. Its demise was caused by human activity and the slow shift to a warmer, wetter environment; it may have even gone extinct.

           Pine stumps that were there 7,000 years ago, prior to the creation of peat, have been discovered in bogs. Over the past 150 years, the majority of the pine trees seen in rural areas were brought in from Scotland and planted. An attempt has been undertaken to reestablish this once native species because there are circumstances in which it is appropriate to support Scots pine. It may be cultivated on marginal ground that would not support other tree species. Additionally, it produces more adaptable wood and reaches maturity faster than broadleaf trees.

           Despite being a coniferous tree, it nevertheless provides habitat diversity that varies with canopy closure, supporting a diverse range of fauna. The seeds from this tree are the only ones that our local red squirrels would eat.



          Numerous imported examples of these little trees, which are quite uncommon in the wild, have been planted in cities, parks, along roadways, and other locations. It could take some searching to find the true native tree, as it is mostly found in the southern part of the nation.

          The pale underside of whitebeam (sorbus pp.) leaves gives rise to their name, while the cream blossoms eventually turn into red berries. The legs of stools and other tiny pieces of furniture have long been made of this firm, light wood.

          Native to Ireland, there are various kinds of whitebeam that can be discovered on cliffs or wild woodlands where they have escaped from grazing. It grows in hedges as well. The common European whitebeam, or Sorbus aria, is the most prevalent and is found most frequently in County Galway.

          Additionally discovered are S. devoniensis, which is limited to the counties of Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny, and Wexford, and S. rupicola, which is particularly prevalent on cliffs.

          Three other species are restricted to certain regions of the nation: S. latifolia, which has wide leaves; S. anglica, which is found only in County Kerry; and S. hibernica, which is unique to Ireland and is found on limestone in the midlands and in Glenveagh, County Donegal.


            Willow (Salix caprea) is a deciduous tree that is commonly found in wetland areas in Ireland. It produces catkins in the early spring that provide a source of pollen for bees and other insects. The tree also provides a habitat for many birds and mammals, such as otters.

            By planting these native trees, we can help to enhance pollinator habitats in Ireland. However, it is important to note that not all trees are suitable for all locations. It is essential to choose trees that are appropriate for the soil type and location where they will be planted.

            When planting trees for pollinators, it is also important to consider the layout and design of the planting scheme. Trees should be planted in groups, rather than in isolation, to provide a continuous source of food and shelter for pollinators. The planting scheme should also include a variety of tree species to ensure a diverse range of food sources for pollinators throughout the year.

            In addition to planting native trees, there are other ways to enhance pollinator habitats in Ireland. These include creating wildflower meadows, leaving areas of land uncut to allow wildflowers to grow, and reducing the use of pesticides.

            Being part of this circular ecosystem we are all intertwined and connected. Every aspect of how we live and survive is connected to how we now decide to treat the natural world. How to live in balance with nature in larger cities is an ongoing challenge. But every day new proactive projects are opening up the way we think, live and adapt.


            Native to Ireland are various types of willow. All of them require moist soil to thrive, and while they all have “pussy willows” or catkins that yield seeds, cuttings are the easiest to cultivate from as they quickly root.

            Goat willow, rusty or grey willow (sometimes called “sallies” or “sally trees”), and eared willow are the three most common types of willow.

            Goat willows may grow on uneven, disturbed ground in dry climates, while they mostly thrive in moist soil. The shiny green leaves of the bay leaf willow are located next to tiny rivers and ditches.

            Osiers do not grow into massive trees despite having long, beautiful leaves. To promote long, flexible shoots that were used to make baskets, they were frequently cultivated and tended by cutting them all the way back to the root. This species may now be cultivated for biomass, offering a sustainable source of energy.

            Since willows are high in insects, they make an excellent summertime food supply for birds that consume insects, such as the willow warbler.

            Wych Elm

            Although the wych elm (ulmus glabra) is native to Ireland, several smooth-leaved and wych elm variants have been brought and planted there in the past, mostly for lumber.

            The majority of wych elms may be found in the country’s northwest highland glens.

            Most English elm plants were found in demesnes. Dutch elm disease has caused a large number of these trees to perish in recent years. English elms may be propagated by their suckers, which they will produce in woodlands and hedgerows and will regrowth from stumps.

            The less prevalent Irish wych elm seems to be more disease-resistant. It needs to be cultivated from seed because it doesn’t generate suckers. The round leaves have teethed edges and feel harsh to the touch. 

            Like many trees, the blooms appear before the leaves. These are reddish clusters that are directly carried on the twigs. They are not visible until they develop into pale green seeds that resemble leaves until they ripen and fall shortly after the actual leaves do.


            The yew is indigenous to the area and may be found in ancient forests, however estates and churchyards are common places to find it.

            Yew is an evergreen conifer that has striking black leaves and scarlet berries that enclose a single seed. Ireland’s sole natural yew wood is Reenadina wood, located on the Muckross Peninsula in County Kerry.

            A extremely upright-growing sport (unique form) of the Irish yew (Taxus baccata ‘fastigata’) was first discovered growing on steep limestone hills in County Fermanagh. This was grown at Florencecourt and later in several churchyards and gardens.

            While many yews are single sex, the majority of Irish yews are female and produce fruit. These could take a while to germinate, even once the meat is removed. The best seeds are those that are bare and have been passed through by birds; you may find these seeds underneath yew trees.

            Certain types are meant for decorative gardens; these require cuttings to be propagated. Some feature golden leaves or yellow fruit. Rich soil is not necessary for yew trees, but they do require a well-drained location that is ideally protected from wind and cold.

            Planting it where animals and children are not at risk is important because the leaves and seeds are harmful to most livestock. Birds may safely consume the fruit, and as yew trees are used by birds to rest and nest, they are really beneficial to nature.

              If you would like to plant trees for the good of the plant and future generations check out how to sponsor tree planting on our website as a business or as an individual.

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