Ireland’s Top 5 Native Trees

close up of Autumn tree leaves

There are several different types of trees in Ireland that are considered native.

The list of Irish native trees includes Alder, Ash, Birch, Cherry, Blackthorn, Whitehorn, Crabapple, Hazel, Holly, Oak, Mountain Ash, Scots pine, Whitethorn, Willow and Yew.

Native Trees can also be used for shelter and to block views for all types of developments and agricultural and amenity situations.

You can choose from different varieties of trees, either deciduous or evergreen. Deciduous trees can be more beneficial to wildlife.

Also, your location and the position of the site you want to plant will help determine what type of tree you can use.

Here is my list of Irelands top 5 native trees.

  • Alder
  • Birch
  • Mountain Ash
  • Ash
  • Oak

Alder (Alnus)

Alder is a fast growing native tree that works very well for planting in wet conditions. Its round leaves provide excellent shelter in the summer months, and the whippy stems break the wind by about 50% in the winter months providing all year round shelter. It also provides an excellent habitat for birds and wildlife for shelter nesting etc.

The catkins on the end of the stems provide food also. Alder roots do not cause problems as they are not intrusive like some of the other native trees. Alder timber can be used in furniture making or for firewood.

The growth rate is between 2-4 feet annually.

Birch (Betula Pendula)

Birch is a slight erect framed tree with light stems and relatively small leaves. There are two types of native birch mainly found in Ireland. Silver Birch and the Downy Birch. The downy Birch is the most commonly found one as it tolerated poor soil conditions and also wet soil conditions.

The Silver birch needs relatively good drainage. Its root system is not intrusive, so therefore it can be planted relatively close to developments etc. Its catkins contain seed which can be eaten by birds and wildlife in the winter months. Silver birch is often used in gardens because of the striking colour from is silver bark in the winter months.

The growth rate is between 1-2 feet per year.

Mountain Ash (Sorbus Aucuparia)

The Mountain Ash tree or more commonly known in Ireland as the rowan tree is widely seen around the Irish countryside. Like the birch, it too grows in an upright manner and doesn’t encroach on neighbouring developments etc. It is often seen on hillsides as it will tolerate poor soil conditions.

Its creamy white flowers turn to bright red berries in the autumn, therefore, providing lots of food for the birds. The leaves turn yellow and red in the autumn and give it great autumn colour. Like the silver Birch, it is often used in gardens due to its compact growing nature.

The growth rate is between 9 inches to 1ft per year.

Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior)

Ash is probably the most common tree you will see when travelling through the Irish countryside especially on ditches as it has a habit of suckering when cut back. This means it sends out several new shoots from the one cut stem. It tolerates most soil conditions, but like most trees, it thrives best on good free draining soil. Its timber is used in a wide variety of applications form Hurley making to furniture making.

There is a disease that came in from Europe called ash dieback affecting ash trees in Ireland. This is being carefully monitored by the relevant authorities.

Growth rate 2-3ft per year.

Oak (Querqus Robur)

Oak is probably the most commonly known native tree as at one time Ireland was covered in Oak. But due to lifetimes of harvesting, there are very few natural Oak woods left. The one in Coolatin Co. Wicklow is the one known most to me. There the sturdy structured majestic native oak trees stand there having being growing for hundreds of years. Oak timber can be used in a wide variety of applications including furniture and kitchen making. The Oak fruit is called the acorn but does not come every year.

Growth rate is 1ft per year.

Irish native trees can be also very beneficial to wild life. Birds, Mammals and insects can benefit greatly from trees in plantations, hedgerows. Parklands, commercial developments and gardens etc. They can provide food and shelter all year round while also providing shelter to the local environment.