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Crann Calls for Return of Diaspora Trees in the Year of The Gathering - Tim Austen

Cork oak (Quercus suber) groing in the JFK memorial arboretum in Wexford

Crann is calling for a wider definition of what constitutes a native tree (see press release below). I would imagine that many landscape architects would be in favour of a broader planting pallette of native trees to select from in terms of that giving greater scope to design aesthetics but for ecological purists selecting trees from the pre-ice age era might be controversial? How far do you go back in time? Didn't Ireland have a tropical climate at one stage in its past so does that mean it is Ok to use tropical exotics in the Irish landscape - I don't think so? Would love to hear your views on this?

Here's Crann's press release in full:

A call on the Government to change its attitude to what constitutes a native tree has come from Crann, the voluntary organisation which aims to increase awareness of trees and woodlands.

Crann Director, Diarmuid McAree, said that, in the year of The Gathering, it was time to welcome back home the tree natives that had been banished from the island of Ireland by the ice ages.

“These were trees that were driven to extinction on this island,” he said. “They are now looked down upon as being somehow inferior in status to the other tree species that are regarded as native.

“In the interests of biodiversity, we are calling on the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to widen its concept of native trees to embrace these ‘previous’ natives. Until there is a change in official outlook on this issue, Ireland will remain on the list of relatively impoverished countries in terms of biodiversity. National Biodiversity Week (18th – 26th May) is an apt occasion for a robust discussion on this important issue.
“Ireland has just 24 native tree species,” he said. “Western Europe is somewhat more biodiverse with about 100 natives, but it is still very far behind North America with its estimated 1,000 species.

“The reason for this huge difference lies in the geography of the mountain ranges on the two continents. The east-west geography of Western Europe’s mountains prevented tree species from finding refuge to the south to escape from the effects of the ice ages. By contrast, North America – where the main mountain ranges run north-south – was a much luckier place for tree species, which were able to retreat southwards.”

In the geological period immediately before the ice ages, Ireland had a much greater diversity of tree species, said Mr McAree. These included fir, maple, sweet chestnut, swamp cypress, beech, walnut, tulip tree, sweetgum, sourgum, pines, spruce, Japanese umbrella pine, wingnut, redwood and hemlock (Source: ‘The late Tertiary landscapes of western Ireland’ by Pete Coxon, Department of Geography, Trinity College Dublin http://www.ucd.ie/gsi/pdf/38-2/tertiary.pdf.

Mr McAree continued: “Acceptance of these previous native tree species as part of our heritage would not be a threat to existing natives but would enhance Ireland’s biodiversity and the richness of our landscapes. Crann, which this year will celebrate the 21st anniversary of its joint Oak Glen plantation with Coillte, remains very much in favour of increased planting of native trees. However, Ireland has one of the lowest levels of tree cover in Europe and there is plenty of room for both current natives and previous natives.”


Tim has become one of Ireland's best known garden and landscape designers. He has completed award winning show gardens at Bloom in the Park in Dublin, and has an extensive portfolio of completed private garden designs across Ireland. He is a familiar face having appeared as a garden design judge on RTÉ television's Super Garden gardening series. Tim loves to create both small and large gardens. No matter what your desires and budget are, he will expertly create a beautiful and special garden just for you.

Source: Landscape Architect Journal - Crann Calls for Return of Diaspora Trees in the Year of The Gathering - Tim Austen