Common Alder (Fearnóg)
Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertner
Common or black alder is a native tree to Ireland and has a natural range extending right across central Europe and as far east as the Caspian sea.
Alder grows on wet sites, typically along lake, stream and riverbanks, but not exclusively so. It is tolerant of a wide pH range, but grows best on soils of pH 4.0 - 7.5. It is a hardy species tolerant of late spring and early autumn frosts and, being relatively deep rooting, is also tolerant of wind. However, it dislikes any form of drought and young trees can die in drought conditions. It is capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen and is therefore a useful species in soil improvement. The same feature makes Alder a very useful 'nurse' for growing in mixture with other more commercial species.
Alder wood has a coarse texture and turns a light reddish brown when dried. It is not commonly used as a structural timber but is becoming increasingly popular in furniture making and in door manufacture. As a native timber it has many traditional uses such as in charcoal production, turning, leather tanning and musical instrument manufacture.
Ash is a native species to Ireland, but with a wide natural distribution, ranging across Europe as far as central Russia in the east, the Mediterranean in the south and central Sweden in the north. Ash has a strong ability to regenerate naturally on bare ground or in hedgerows, where it is probably best known in Ireland.
Ash is one of the most exacting species with regard to site fertility.Having the highest nutrient requirements of any species, very careful choice of planting site is essential for quality timber production.Ash requires moist, deep, well-drained soils of pH 6-7, with a high content of available nitrogen. Vegetation control is extremely important in Ash plantations, as it is a species very sensitive to competition from weeds for both nutrients and moisture. Ash is very susceptible to frost which causes forking of the main stem and can result in poor quality stem form. Other risks to Ash crops include livestock trespass, browsing from rabbits, hares and deer and ash bud moth, which lives in ash buds, and can cause forking.
Ash has large annual rings and a clean white appearance with a distinctive sheen making it popular for a variety of uses. Ash timber, when grown quickly is strong and flexible with a good capacity for shock absorbency. For this reason Ash has been traditionally used in Ireland for the production of hurleys. Only fast grown, straight and branch free ash can be used for this purpose. The same shock absorbing qualities make ash suitable for other sports equipment and tool handles. Larger ash stems may be used as veneer logs or sawlogs for use in furniture manufacture.
There are two species of birch native to Ireland. These are downy birch and silver birch. Silver Birch has a blackish, fissured trunk, while the downy birch's trunk is usually smooth and whitish, and its twigs are softly hairy. Silver birch is more common on better soils, dry fen peats and sheltered areas. Downy birch is more commonly associated with exposed areas such as mountains. Birches can tolerate higher altitudes and poorer soils than other native species. Birch is useful as a 'nurse' species that helps other forest trees to grow and as a soil improver.
Birch wood is whitish, flexible and easily worked. It is heavy, even grained and fine textured, but it is not durable. Its most common commercial use is for plywood and pulpwood. It can also be used in furniture making and turnery.
Rowan is a native species to Ireland and the rest of Europe. It has an extensive natural range from Iceland across to western Russia and from Morocco in north Africa east to Turkey and northern Iran.
Rowan is a tough coloniser, which can tolerate peaty soils and exposed conditions. It is a common tree in hilly, rocky areas and will grow equally well on acid or alkaline sites. Rowan will not tolerate waterlogged conditions and grows best on light textured brown earths and more fertile peats. Rowan is not considered a commercial species in Ireland and is rarely planted in groups of greater than a few trees. Instead, it is often planted along plantation edges and roadsides to soften the visual impact of commercial plantations.
Rowan produces dense, pale-brown wood that can be used for turnery and carving. It was once widely used to make tool handles and, like yew, for making long bows.
Oak is the largest and together with yew, the longest living native tree in Ireland. There are two species of Oak native to Ireland. These are pedunculate oak and sessile oak. The species are distinguished mainly by their acorns. Sessile Oak has acorns with no stalks, while the pedunculate oak has acorns with long stalks.
While Oak can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, both species are best suited to low elevation, sheltered sites with deep and fertile soil. Pedunculate Oak prefers well aerated, deep, moist, fertile, heavy soils (pH 4.5 - 7.0) and can tolerate some waterlogging. Sessile Oak is intolerant of flooding, preferring the better drained acid brown earths. Oak does not compete well with grass and other vegetation and weed control is essential for as long as competition persists. Oak is susceptible to grey squirrel damage and also to browsing from deer, rabbits, hares and domestic stock.
In the past many of our best oaks were felled to make ships for Britain's Royal Navy, and Oak was often used for structures such as roof beams. Good quality Oak timber is used for furniture, panelling, high class joinery and veneers. urrently, in Ireland, Oak is primarily used in furniture making, building timber, poles, fencing, firewood and charcoal.