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Irish Trees

Ireland has a lower number of native tree species than would be found in Britain, due to the manner in which trees spread from mainland Europe after the last ice age.

We have take a more in-depth look at many species in our 'Tree Focus' articles in our 'Woodland' magazine - links are provided below to these articles for trees we have featured. The articles are provided in PDF format.

Alder leaf and inflorescences

Alder / Alnus glutinosa / Fearnóg: A tree commonly seen near water, alder is very tolerant of wet conditions (though prefers flowing to stagnant water). A medium sized, fast growing tree, reaching 20m at maturity, it is quick to colonise new ground. The wood is slow to rot, and was often used to make sluice gates in canals. It is a relative of the birch.


Click here to read about the Alder in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Alder tree
Ash leaves and seeds

Ash / Fraxinus excelsior / Fuinseog: Ash is a large, common deciduous tree, probably the most common farmland tree. It is late to come into leaf (hence the Irish tradition that potatoes can be planted until you can no longer see through the tree). The wood is traditionally used to make hurleys. They can grow up to 45m high.


Click here to read about the Ash in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Ash tree
Aspen leaves Aspen / Populus tremula / Crann creathach: The Irish for aspen and the Latin name give away one of the characteristics of the tree, that of its trembling behaviour in the wind. It is a member of the poplar family, and can spread by suckering as well as seeds. It is not a common tree in Ireland.   aspen tree
birch detail

Birch / Betula pendula / Beith gheal: There are two species of birsh in Ireland, silver birch and downy birch. Birch is a colonising tree, and is thought to be one of the first trees to have made it to Ireland after the last ice age; they are more tolerant of poor soils than most trees, and can act as a nurse species to other species which take longer to establish. They are quick growing, short lived, and grow to around 25 metres.


Click here to read about the Birch in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Birch trees
Bird cherry leaves and blossoms Bird cherry / Prunus padus / Donnroisc: The bird cherry is so called because it is only birds which can eat the fruit. It is mainly found in the north west, and is a small tree, reaching about 15 metres.   Bird cherry tree
Wild cherry blossoms Wild cherry / Prunus avium / Crann silíní fiáin: Often found on the edges of woods and in old hedges, they prefer fertile limey soils, so are most often found inthe east and midlands. Their cherries are edible. It is not a tall tree, reaching about 20 metres in height.   Wild cherry tree
Crab apple fruits and leaves Crab apple / Malus sylvestris / Crann fia-úll: A small tree of about 15 metres when mature, crab apple is similar to wild cherry in that it is more often found on the edges of woods than in them. The apples are edible, if bitter, and can be used to make jelly.   Crab apple tree
Elder berries

Elder / Sambucus nigra / Troman: Elder is a small tree, growing to approximately 6m in height, known for its white flowers in spring, and its dark purple to black berries in the autumn. It is a common hedgrow tree, and is not common in developed woodland.


Click here to read about the Elder in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Elder tree
Hazel nuts and leaves

Hazel / Corylus avellana / Coll: Generally an understorey tree, hazel is often found underneath a canopy of ash or oak, but can also be found in hazel scrub such as the Burren. It is a shrub rather than a tree, reaching a height of about 5 metres. The nuts are of course edible, but are produced far less by understorey trees than by trees which are less in the shade.


Click here to read about the Hazel in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Hazel tree
Holly leaves and berries

Holly / Ilex aquifolium / Cuileann: Holly is one of our few evergreen trees, famous for its red berries (only produced by the female plant, and also leading to it being endangered in some places due to demand at Christmas); it is common as an understorey tree, but is also a very hardy tree, and can be found on mountainsides where most other trees would perish. It grows to around 15 metres.


Click here to read about the Holly in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Holly tree
Pedunculate oak acorns and leaves Pedunculate oak / Quercus robur / Dar ghallda: The oak is one of our largest and longest lived (second to yew in the longevity stakes). Pedunculate oak is the less common of our two native oak species; it is found on heavier, more alkaline soils in the midlands. Pedunculate oak produces acorns on stalks, which will distinguish it from sessile oak acorns which do not have stalks.   Pedunculate oak tree
Sessile Oak acorns and leaves Sessile oak / Quercus petraea / Dair ghaelach: Found on less fertile, more acidic soils than the pedunculate oak, sessile oak is more common, but found mostly on the west coast. Oaks can reach a height of 40 metres, and can take several hundred years to mature, but provide a rich habitat for other species. Its wood is famed, and the timber and bark has been put to many uses down the years.   Sessile oak tree
Rowan berries and leaves Rowan / Sorbus aucuparia / Caorthann: Also known as the mountain ash, due to its leaf structure. A small tree, it is tolerant of poor soils (which is where it gets the name mountain ash) and makes a good coloniser. The berries provide food for birds, which help spread the tree.   Rowan tree
Scots pine cones and needles Scots pine / Pinus sylvestris / Péine albanach: Arguably once extinct from Ireland, most scots pine in Ireland has been reintroduced from Scotland. A tall tree, of about 40 metres, it is also relatively long lived. It is tolerant of marginal land, and provides food for red squirrels, who eat its seed.   Scots pine
Spindle berries

Spindle / Euonymus europaeus / Feoras: A small tree growing to 6m, spindle is not a common tree, but is notable for its colourful pink berries and orange seeds.


Click here to read about the Spindle in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Spindle leaves and flowers
Strawberry tree fruits and foliage

Strawberry tree / Arbutus unedo / Caithne: An tree with an unusual range, in that it is widespread in Spain and Portugal, and also in the southwest of Ireland but nowhere else in the British Isles, it is an evergreen tree which produces unusual fruits which resemble strawberries. These are edible, but not a pleasant snack. It is a small tree.


Click here to read about the Strawberry Tree in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Strawberry tree
Whitebeam berries and leaves

Whitebeam / Sorbus aria / Fionncholl: A relative of the rowan, the whitebeam also produces edible red berries, but it has a different distribution in that it prefers the south east of the country. It reaches a height of around 20 metres.


Click here to read about the Whitebeam in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Whitebeam tree
Goat willow catkins Willow / Salix species / Saileach: Willow forms a continuum of species, which are often difficult to distinguish. A tree which is very tolerant of waterlogged soil, it can often be found in marshy ground. Famous for its use in weaving baskets, the wood is very pliable and the tree can be coppiced or pollarded to produce willow whips for this purpose.   Willow tree
Wych elm leaves and seeds

Wych elm / Ulmus glabra / Leamhán sléibhe: A large, long lived tree, wych elm can reach 40 metres and live for hundreds of years. Not as susceptible to Dutch Elm Disease as the field elm, they can still be found in some woodland.


Click here to read about the Wych Elm and Elm in our 'Tree Focus' article.

  Wych elm
Yew berries and foliage Yew / Taxus baccata / Iúr: Famously long lived, yew is associated with graveyards not because the toxic foliage will keep livestock out of them (as is widely believed), but because it is famously able to rejuvenate itself, an unusual trait in a conifer. Some trees in Ireland are believed to be up to 1,000 years old. Famously used in Britain to make longbows, the wood is durable and flexible. Ireland's only native yew wood is in Killarney.   Yew tree in graveyard


All images sourced from Creative Commons - source files are linked from each image. As a result, very few of the images are of Irish trees, but the species is correct in each.

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