Native Irish Tree Educators Program.

The Frameyard at Fota House & Gardens

What joy to find myself in the beautiful FOTA Estate gardens on last Saturday 3rd October. I was attracted to attend this program for educators on planting native Irish Tree seed boxes because of my general interest in the environment.

Mr. Tom o’Byrne presents on the Native Irish Oak Acorn.

However nothing prepared me for Tom o’Byrne’s , an Ecologist both by training and practice, inspirational talk on the native Irish Oak. Like many other Irish people I lamented the current scarcity of Oak trees in Ireland — blaming their demise on the requirements of the British navy in times past. Listening to Tom I discovered that our own Irish ancestors, mostly out of necessity, regularly and freely cut down Oak trees for firewood. The result of all this is that today Ireland has the lowest density of tree cover of any European country –only 10% of Ireland is covered in trees and only 1% of this is native trees. We are being deprived of all the benefits that trees bring to our lives. Tom then went on to extol the wonders of the native Irish Oak tree and the part it plays in maintaining the ecological diversity which is so essential to life. Supporting 284 on pedunculate & 423 on sessile oak, a myriad species of insects, fungi, birds and other wildlife. One astonishing and significant fact which stayed with me is that a mature Oak absorbs up to 400 litres of water in a single day. Just think what a difference it would make if we replanted the floodplains of our rivers with native Irish Oak trees. I began to imagine the Lee fields — which are so often waterlogged being instead a forest of Oak trees with all the attending wild life which the Oak both attracts and supports. How much more attractive it would be for the children of Cork than the water logged field it is with a metal structure in the middle!

Tom inspired us with numerous other fascinating facts about the Oak- like how to encourage the acorn to germinate by putting your own spittle on it thus activating the acorn, bringing it into thinking that it had travelled a distance from the parent Oak in the body of a creature. The Oak longs to propagate itself and so this year is producing a bumper crop of acorns. However the parent Oak doesn’t want the new Oak to be either too close or too far away. Ideally the acorn should be planted within 10k of the parent tree.

And this is what the workshop was all about — inspiring and encouraging all present to take part in an initiative to collect, plant and tend this year’s bumper crop of acorns so that in a few years we will have Oak saplings to plant throughout Co. Cork.

Michael Harrington of Comhnoiri na Foraisai Darach with the help of Ann Fogarty, a volunteer in Fota House & Gardens organised this event. In the morning we were encouraged and inspired while in the afternoon we got a hands on demonstration of what was involved in harvesting and planting the acorns in specially designed seed boxes. All present were educators of some sort — either working in schools or with community groups.

I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to play my part and enable others also to do something practical about Climate Change.

Kathy Foulds & Michael o’Hiongardail

I was so inspired and encouraged that next morning I searched for and found an Oak tree in my local area under which I collected 300+ acorns. In the process I discovered the difference between the native Irish Oak and the Turkey Oak which is not native to Ireland. This project is about the native Irish Oak Tree. The idea is to involve as many schools and community groups as possible to get involved so that all over county Cork we will have seed boxes of acorns growing sapling oaks ready for planting our around the county in a few years.

If you or a group you are involved with would like to get involved you can contact Micheal o’Hiongardail on: 0852813551 or cfdarach@gmail.com

Also see Comhnoiri na Foraisai Darach on Facebook or twitter

By Kathy Foulds