“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”
The 7th Viscount found great satisfaction in planting trees on the Estate and planted over 1,300 acres of trees during his lifetime, saying “Nobody can say that I have not left my mark on the country”. The native trees at the Waterfall are oak and originally the whole area would have been an oak forest! During the 20th century there was a large demand for mature oak and the forest at the Waterfall was felled over a number of years.
Trees are extremely important at Powerscourt and since 1990 we have planted over 10,000 young oak trees at the Waterfall. Over X trees are planted every year at Powerscourt Estate.
Like the name suggests, broadleaved trees have broad, flat leaves, which can be many different shapes. Broadleaved trees have their seeds enclosed in fruits, such as berries and nuts, and most are deciduous.
Considered Ireland’s national tree, the majestic sessile oak is a slow-growing deciduous tree that can reach 40m in height and live for hundreds of years. Known as ‘king of the forest’, a single oak tree can support up to 284 insect species, not to mention countless birds and mammals. It is estimated that over 1,600 place names in Ireland feature ‘oak’ (‘dair’ in Irish), showing how widespread this tree once was. These include Kildare (’ Cill Dara’), which means ‘church of the oaks’, and Derry (‘Doire’), meaning ‘oak wood’.
The ancient Celts believed that oak trees were sacred, and doors made of oak were capable of warding off evil spirits!
The ash tree is easily recognised by its distinctive black buds in winter, and its pinnate leaves (from the Latin word pinna, meaning ‘feather’) are some of the last to appear in spring. Flexible and shock resistant, ash wood rarely splinters and is famed for making hurley sticks, as well as snooker cues, oars, skis and tool handles.
It is believed that if you place an ash leaf under your pillow, you will dream of future events.
This elegant deciduous tree is known as the ‘lady of the woods’ because of its beautiful silvery bark and delicate waving branches. Birch is called a ‘pioneer species’, as it is one of the earliest species to colonise an area. After the last ice age, these trees would have been one of the first to reclaim the ice-scoured Irish landscape.
Wine and syrup can be made from birch sap, both of which have medicinal properties.
Many may know this tree as the mountain ash, so called because of the similarity of its leaves to that of the ash tree. However, these trees are completely unrelated and rowan is actually a member of the rose family. Its scarlet berries appear in autumn and are a great source of food for birds and, though quite bitter, can also be made into a jam.
Deeply rooted in mythology and folklore, rowan is said to be a magical tree that can ward off harm and bring good luck. Twigs were hung in houses to protect from witches’ spells and it was said that a rowan planted on a grave would keep the dead from rising!
Long ago, this evergreen tree was highly respected by the druids in Ireland. The presence of its dark green leaves and bright red berries during the harsh winter symbolised strength and everlasting life. Holly was brought into homes on the shortest day of the year (December 21st) to invoke the return of spring – and still to this day holly is used as a traditional symbol of Christmas.
Individual holly trees are either male or female, and only female trees produce berries. Though an important winter food for birds, the bright red berries of holly are toxic to humans. Do not eat them!
Conifers have narrow leaves, which can be needle-like or scaly. Their seeds usually develop inside protective woody cones and most trees are evergreen.
Native to western North America, Sitka spruce was introduced into Ireland in the 1830’s. Fast growing and well suited for our climate, today it is our most versatile and commonly planted forest tree. The wood from Sitka spruce is known as ‘white deal’ and is widely used as a building and fencing material.
The first successful powered airplane, the Wright brothers’ Flyer, was built using Sitka spruce.
Larch is the only deciduous conifer in Ireland, and was brought here about 350 years ago. Its soft, bright green needles turn an attractive yellow before they fall in the late autumn, leaving the tree bare for winter.
The rot-resistant, reddish-brown heartwood of larch is flexible, durable and attractive, making it a popular choice for yacht building.
This tall native conifer was known as one of the ‘nobles of the wood’ in medieval Irish culture, and was highly prized for its resin. To this day it is still valued for its many commercial applications. The pale red wood, known as ‘red deal’, is light and strong and ideal for making doors, floors, decking and paper.
The needles can be boiled in water to produce an aromatic tea which is helpful in the treatment of bronchial conditions.