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.
After the initial ground preparation and site development it is possible to proceed with the planting of the site. It is essential at this stage to spend time with the planting contractors to ensure that the trees being planted are healthy, the correct species are planted in the right place and that the trees are well planted.
Trees should be planted so that all roots are covered but not so deep that the stem bark is likely to rot. Each tree should be well firmed in so there are no air pockets around the roots.
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 a strong ability to regenerate naturally on bare ground or in hedgerows, where it is probably best known in Ireland.
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.
Common Alder (Fearnóg)
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.
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.
Sessile Oak and Pedunculate Oak (Dair ghaelach/Dair ghallda)
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.
Silver and Downy Birch (Beith gheal/Beith chlúmhach)
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. Birch is useful as a 'nurse' species that helps other forest trees to grow and as a soil improver.
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 wood is whitish, flexible and easily worked. It is heavy, even grained and fine textured, but it is not durable.
Beech is native to western Europe. Its range extends from southern Scandinavia to central Spain, Corsica, Sicily and Greece, eastwards to western Russia and Crimea and westwards to Britain. Beech is now widely naturalised in Ireland having been introduced on numerous occasions since the 1500's.
Beech grows on a wide range of soils, but its growth performance is greatly influenced by site quality. It grows best on moist free draining soils of moderate depth with a neutral or slightly acid pH (pH 6.0 - 7.5). Unsuitable sites include frost prone sites, heavy clay soils, peaty soils, poor sandy soils, shallow soils and soils with free calcium carbonate to the surface. Beech is tolerant of exposure, but prefers a sheltered site where it can grow straight and tall. In Ireland Beech is commonly planted in mixture with a coniferous species such as Scots pine or European larch. Beech does not compete well with grass and other vegetation and weed control is vital as long as competition persists.
Beech timber is strong, straight grained and even textured. It is an easily worked timber and finishes excellently with most hand and machine tools.
Douglas fir is native to the Pacific coast of north America, from northern British Columbia to northern California, the Rocky Mountains and Mexico. It extends inland as far as Colorado and New Mexico.
Douglas fir is unsuited to heavy soils, where it exhibits very coarse growth and can often become very unstable, due to restricted rooting. For optimum growth it should be planted on middle valley slopes, with well-drained soils of good depth and moderate fertility. It will also grow well on lighter, sandier soils, where improved form may result, although growth will be slower.
Douglas fir produces a straight grained, naturally durable timber with a high strength to weight ratio.
European larch is native to the mountains of central Europe, from the Alps to south Poland, the Carpathians and Croatia. It was first introduced to Britain around 1620.
European Larch is an exacting species and requires at least moderate fertility and a moist free draining soil. Very wet or very dry soils should be avoided. European larch is a light demanding species and early vegetation control is extremely important. It also must be thinned early and frequently to allow for full crown development. European larch is regarded as a good nurse for broadleaved species and can often be found planted in mixture with Oak and Beech.
The timber of European larch is noted for its hardness, natural durability and strength.
Japanese Larch and Hybrid Larch
Japanese larch is native to a small region on the island of Honshu in Japan. It was introduced to Britain and Ireland in the late 1800's. Hybrid larch is a cross between European larch and Japanese larch. The first Hybrid larch was discovered in Scotland in 1904. Silviculturally, it is considered similar to Japanese larch, but in terms of growth it is superior to both European and Japanese larch.
Japanese and Hybrid larches are more accommodating than European larch and they thrive over a wide range of conditions. They do best however, on well drained, moist, moderately fertile soils which are not too heavy. The presence of dense bracken is often used as an indicator of a suitable site. Like European larch, Japanese and Hybrid larch are strong light demanders and vegetation control and early thinning are essential. All three larches have a high amenity value due to the fact that they are the only deciduous conifers commonly planted in Ireland. Hence, both Japanese and Hybrid larch are often planted in mixtures with Sitka spruce in order to soften the visual impact of the Spruce plantation.
Like European larch the wood of both Japanese and Hybrid larch is noted for its hardness, natural durability and strength.
Lodgepole pine is native to north west America. Its natural range extends from south-east Alaska and interior Yukon in the north to California in the south and extends eastwards over the Rocky and Cascade mountains as far as the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Lodgepole pine is an extremely undemanding species and is capable of growing on the poorest of sites, following appropriate ground preparation and phosphate application. It is much more tolerant of competition from heather than Sitka spruce and is often planted on sites where heather is likely to be a problem. It can also be planted as a nurse in mixture with Sitka spruce on these sites. It is a coarse and unattractive tree on good lowland sites, where several other species are much more productive.
Norway spruce has a natural distribution ranging from the Pyrenees, Alps and Balkans, northwards to south Germany and Scandinavia and eastwards through the Carpathians and Poland to western Russia. It is a high mountain species in central Europe and a lowland tree in northern Europe.
Norway spruce is a very accommodating species and can be used in drier regions than Sitka spruce but not at such high elevations. It is more hardy to spring frosts than Sitka spruce, but may still suffer badly. It will not tolerate salty winds or industrial pollution. Norway spruce grows best on moist, even moderately waterlogged rushy land of medium to high fertility, including heavy clays and the less acid peats. If the site is too dry it tends to suffer from crown dieback. On sites dominated by heather, Norway spruce is unable to compete for nitrogen.
Scots Pine (Albanach)
Scots Pine of native Irish stock is considered by many academics to be extinct, although the species is found widely in Ireland. It is possible that some existing stands or individual trees of Scots Pine are native, but it is currently impossible to verify this. Scots Pine is the only pine tree native to Ireland. The only other native coniferous trees are Juniper (Juniperus communis) and the Yew (Taxus baccata).
Scots pine prefers light, sandy soils and does not like sea winds or high rainfall. However, it can tolerate such conditions and can be planted on marginal land where some broadleaf trees could not grow initially. Therefore, it has an important role as a 'nurse' species for broadleaf trees, especially beech on frost prone sites. Scots pine does not grow well on peaty soils.
Scots pine produces 'red deal' a strong, general-purpose timber. The wood is slow to decay because of its high resin content.
The natural range of Sitka spruce is a narrow belt of the Pacific north west coast of North America, known as the 'fog belt'. It grows along this coast from Alaska, down through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon to California.
Sitka spruce is currently the most dominant species used in Irish forestry. It is relatively easily established and will grow productively under a wide range of conditions. It is capable of good growth in areas of high exposure and thrives on wet soils, though windthrow is a serious risk. Sitka spruce grows best on moist fertile soils under conditions of high humidity. Frost prone sites and very dry sites in low rainfall areas should be avoided.
The wood of both Sitka and Norway spruce is classified in the timber trade as 'white deal'. Sitka spruce timber is light in weight, non-resinous rather coarse textured and is liable to twist while drying.
Sycamore is native to high elevations in southern and central Europe. It extends northwards to Paris and east as far as the Caucasus. Its time of introduction is unclear but it is thought that it first became widely planted during the 17th century. Since then it has become naturalised here and is now a common woodland and hedgerow tree.
Sycamore thrives on a wide range of soils, but will not grow in soils which are either too dry or too wet. It grows best on deep, moist, free draining soils of pH 5.5 - 7.5. Sycamore is tolerant of exposure to wind and also to salt spray, but performs best in sheltered locations. Young plants are very intolerant of competition from grasses, making vegetation control extremely important. Shaping and pruning is also important to produce good quality stems.
Sycamore has a fine even textured wood of nearly white or slightly yellowish brown colour. It is a hard and strong wood that can be worked to a very smooth finish.