Information on Trees

Page last updated: 4th November 2010

This is our treeformation page - here you will find a couple of fascinating facts about trees- the topic of our project. Read on to amaze your friends with your spectacular tree knowledge!

For more information on the latest tree related activities taking place in Ireland click onto the link below.  

Tree Council of Ireland

Did you know?

1) Trees renew our air supply by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
2) The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.
3) One acre of trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
4) Shade trees can make buildings up to 20 degrees cooler in the summer.
5) Trees lower air temperature by evaporating water in their leaves.
6) Tree roots stabilize soil and prevent erosion.
7) Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water, as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.
8) The cottonwood tree seed is the seed that stays in flight the longest. The tiny seed is surrounded by ultra-light, white fluff hairs that can carry it on the air for several days.
9)One of the tallest soft wood trees is the General Sherman, a giant redwood sequoia of California. General Sherman is about 275 ft or 84 m high with a girth of 25 ft or 8m.
10)The 236 ft or 72 m high Ada Tree of Australia has a 50 ft or 15.4 m girth and a root system that takes up more than an acre.
11)The world's tallest tree is a coast redwood in California, measuring more than an acre.
12)The world's oldest trees are 4,600 year old Bristlecone pines in the USA.

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Trees and Climate Change

Trees and Cimate Control

Trees alter the environment in which we live by moderating climate, improving air quality, conserving water, and harboring wildlife. Climate control is obtained by moderating the effects of sun, wind, and rain. Radiant energy from the sun is absorbed or deflected by leaves on deciduous trees in the summer and is only filtered by branches of deciduous trees in winter. We are cooler when we stand in the shade of trees and are not exposed to direct sunlight. In winter, we value the sun’s radiant energy. Therefore, we should plant only small or deciduous trees on the south side of homes.

Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees. The more compact the foliage on the tree or group of trees, the greater the influence of the windbreak. The downward fall of rain, sleet, and hail is initially absorbed or deflected by trees, which provides some protection for people, pets, and buildings. Trees intercept water, store some of it, and reduce storm runoff and the possibility of flooding.

Dew and frost are less common under trees because less radiant energy is released from the soil in those areas at night.

Temperature in the vicinity of trees is cooler than that away from trees. The larger the tree, the greater the cooling. By using trees in the cities, we are able to moderate the heat-island effect caused by pavement and buildings in commercial areas.

Air quality can be improved through the use of trees, shrubs, and turf. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes the pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air to form carbohydrates that are used in the plant’s structure and function. In this process, leaves also absorb other air pollutants—such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide—and give off oxygen.

By planting trees and shrubs, we return to a more natural, less artificial environment. Birds and other wildlife are attracted to the area. The natural cycles of plant growth, reproduction, and decomposition are again present, both above and below ground. Natural harmony is restored to the urban environment.

Wildfires/ Forest Fires

A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, forest fire, grass fire, hill fire, peat fire, vegetation fire, veldfire and wildland fire may be used to describe this same process- depending on the type of vegetation being burned. A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks Wildfires are characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties such as speed of  propagation, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire.

Wildfires can affect climate and weather and have major impacts on atmospheric pollution. Wildfire emissions contain fine particulate matter which can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Forest fires in Indonesia in 1997 were estimated to have released between 0.81 and 2.57 gigatonnes (0.89 and 2.83 billion short tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is between 13%–40% of the annual carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Atmospheric models suggest that these concentrations of sooty particles could increase absorption of incoming solar radiation during winter months by as much as 15%.

The Kyoto Protocol

In December 1997, 160 countries reached an agreement that by 2008-2012 the industrialized countries would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a percentage of 1990 levels. Canada agreed to a 6% reduction by 2012 relative to 1990 levels (which will be 20%-25% of the "business as normal" 2012 levels) and signed on to the Kyoto Protocol in 2002.

The Role of Trees

Since 50% of a tree is composed of carbon, trees represent one of the best ways to get rid of carbon (CO2  emissions) from the air. The Kyoto Protocol recognizes this and defines afforestation (the planting of trees and seeds on land that has not recently been part of a forest) as a opposed to reforestation.  

Team Tree To One's Top  5 Reasons on Why You Should Plant a Tree 

1) Trees produce oxygen: Of course where would we be without the precious air that we breathe in! A mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year. What many people don't realize is the forest also acts as a giant filter that cleans the air we breath.

2) Trees are carbon sinks: If you haven't already read it, you can learn more about carbon sinks on our Climate Change page. To produce its food, a tree absorbs and locks away carbon dioxide in the wood, roots and leaves. Carbon dioxide is a global warming suspect. A forest is a carbon storage area or a "sink" that can lock up as much carbon as it produces. This locking-up process "stores" carbon as wood and not as an available "greenhouse" gas.

3) Trees clean the soil: The term phytoremediation is a fancy word for the absorption of dangerous chemicals and other pollutants that have entered the soil. Trees can either store harmful pollutants or actually change the pollutant into less harmful forms. Trees filter sewage and farm chemicals, reduce the effects of animal wastes, clean roadside spills and clean water runoff into streams.

4) Trees slow down storm water runoff: Flash flooding can be dramatically reduced by a forest or by planting trees. One Colorado blue spruce, either planted or growing wild, can intercept more than 1000 gallons of water annually when fully grown. Underground water-holding aquifers are recharged with this slowing down of water runoff.

5) Lastly, trees generally look nice! Who wouldn't love to have a magnificent willow tree in their backyard!

Native Irish Trees

The Willow Tree

Willow's are a deciduous type of tree- this means that they lose their leaves in Autumn. Their are over 400 hundred species of willow trees and the grow on moist soils in cold, temperate (mild) climate regions. Basically Ireland in a nutshell!

Appearance: Willows have a watery bark and are usually soft, flexible and tough with long lean branches. Their leaves are oval shaped and feathery- coming in a variety of colours varying from green to yelllow to blue-ish.

Uses: The leaves and barks of willow trees are mentioned in ancient scripts such as the Ancient Greeks for being used as a form of medicine to cure body aches. In 1763 the medicinal attributes of the willow tree were noted by Reverend Edward Stone in England who took an extract out a willow tree's bark, called salicin. It was later discovered by a French pharmacist called Henri Leroux and a Italian chemist named Raffaele Piria that when salicin is in a saturated water solution the chemical becomes acidic and is called salicylic acid, which is used in the making of aspirin.

Just So You Know: Willows are often used in art as the have a very graceful appearance. Willows are also a symbol of purity. The willow trees native to Ireland include: The Goat Willow; The Grey Willow; The Bay Willow and The Eared Willow.

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The Birch Tree

Description: Birch trees are very closely related to oak/beech trees. Birches are small to medium sized trees that grow in temperate climates. Their leaves are simple and spiky. Birches have a distinctive bark which has marked with   dark horizontal lines. The Silver and the Downy Birch are both birch trees native to Ireland.

Interesting Facts:1) The bark of a birch tree can be soaked in water and used as a cast for a broken arm!                             2) Did you know, that you can also physically eat the inner bark of a birch tree?
                            3) Birch trees are useful in everyday life as they are used to make paper.
                            4) Birches are associated with the Tír na nÓg, the land of the dead in Gaelic folklore.

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The Oak Tree

Description: There are about 600 hundred different species of oak trees around the world. In these species there are both deciduous and evergreen variations.

Appearance and Properties: Oaks have spirally arranged leaves- oaks are very strong and have a high immunity to fungal infection.  As a result of oak trees being solid and strong they are often used in the making of furniture. Acorns (the nuts that grow on oak trees) are used in the production of flour and acorn coffee.

Oak Trees in Irish History: The druids and ancient Celts had many beliefs about our native oaks, chief among the Celts beliefs being that doors made of oak wood kept out evil spirits. One of the druid’s main beliefs was that carving symbols into large oak trees gave them protection from lightning. This may be because a large oak tree acts like a lightning rod, diverting the electrical charge away from the druids settlements than any magical property.

Did You Know: Galway’s largest example of our native oak is a Pedunculate oak growing in Clonbrock, Ahascragh, Ballinasloe with a girth (circumference) of 5.73 metres to a height of 27 metres.

Unfortunately, for the Galway supporters this is beaten to the title of king Irish Oak by a tree growing at Farnham Estate, Farnham, Co. Cavan, which is an amazing 28 metres tall with a girth of 8.09 metres.

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The Ash Tree

Description: The ash tree is sometimes called the Venus of the woods because of it's lanky, graceful shape and it's luscious vibrant foliage. Our common ash is a tree that grows at a fast rate to 25mtrs in height by 20mtrs spread. This rapid growth and the ability to re-sprout  after being cut down made ash a valuable renewable tree to the early Irish. After cutting, the hard wood was allowed to rest and renew for about ten years before the farmer’s saw came tearing back for that inevitable second cut. Ash trees grow near streams which is another reason as to why they were popular with the early Irish settlers.

Did You Know: 1) The ash tree is very popular in Ireland because the wood from ash is used to                                                 make hurleys as it is flexible.
                       2) Leaves on an ash do not appear until May
                      3) The timber is very tough and flexible and is used in the making of waking sticks,                                         oars and frames for large vehicles like buses. this wood was used to make aircraft wings                                 during World War II.

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The Irish Juniper

Description: Junipers vary in size and shape from tall trees, 20–40 m tall, to low spreading shrubs (bushes) with long trailing branches. They are evergreen with needle-like leaves.

Uses: Juniper berries are a spice used in a wide variety of culinary dishes and best known for the primary flavoring in gin (and responsible for gin's name, which is a shortening of the Dutch word for juniper, genever). Juniper berries are also used as the primary flavor in the liquor Jenever and sahti-style of beers. Juniper berry sauce is often a popular flavoring choice for quail, pheasant, veal, rabbit, venison and other meat dishes. Many of the earliest prehistoric people lived in or near juniper forests which furnished them food, fuel, and wood for shelter or utensils.

Fact: 1) Juniper's are surprisingly slow growing trees- they can take about 20 years to grow two and a half             metres tall.
          2) Juniper trees rarely exceeds 7 metres by 4 metres in height and width at a comfortably slow rate.
          3) These trees
release quite a strong aromatic scent if clipped or crushed.

* For illustrative information please go to the Funstuff & Links page and play our cool jigsaw puzzles to reveal   pictures of these trees. 

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How to Plant a Tree


1) Find out where you will plant the tree... make sure there is enough space on the grounds.

2) Ask for permission- this is important even if you are planting the tree  in your own back yard! If you plan on planting the tree in your local park it is important that you know what kind trees can or cannot be planted on the soil.

3) Ask for some advice especially if this is your first time planting a tree. Search the internet for guides or ask your local forester (the person in charge of your local park).

Planting the Tree

1) Dig the hole as deep as the rootball and twice as wide.

  1. 2) Check to see if the soil around the hole is too hard - if it is, loosen it up a bit with the shovel.

  2. 3) Remove the container from the rootball. (The roots are like the tree's blood vessels and they work best if they are not all twisted and knotted up, so you might need to straighten them out if they are circling around after having grown in the container.)

  3. 4) Place the tree in the hole, making sure the soil is at the same level on the tree as when the tree grew in the garden center. If your tree has burlap around the rootball, place the tree in the hole and then carefully untie the burlap. Simply leave the burlap lying in the bottom of the hole.

  4. 5) Fill in around the rootball with soil and pack the soil with your hands and feet to make sure that there are no air pockets.

  5. 6) Make a little dam around the base of the tree as wide as the hole with left over soil or grass clumps to hold in the water.

  6. 7) Give your new tree a good soaking of water to help settle it into its new home.

  7. 8) Repeat the "One In A Million" Promise.

  8.                     There are millions of people in world
                        But it just takes one to make a difference.
                        I promise to make a difference in my world
                        Because it starts with me and the time is now!
                        I am somebody so I will stand up and be counted
                        As One In A Million.

9) Give your tree a mulch blanket which is a 2- to 4-inch covering of rotten leaves, wood chips, pine straw or shredded bark that will insulate the growd, decrease the amount of weeds that will grow around your tree, keeps moisture around the roots and provides food for your tree. Make sure that the mulch blanket is not piled up on and touching the base of the tree but has a little space between the tree and where the mulch begins - you simply might need to push some of the mulch back from the bottom of the tree.

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News on Trees

Last updated: 4th November 2010

2011 National Tree Week 2011: 6 –12 March 2011
The Year of the Forest

2011 has been declared International year of the Forest to mark the part that the world’s forests play as an integral part of global sustainable development. Forests are important because: they are a vital part of global ecosystems and their continued survival is being compromised by human activities forest-related economic activities affect livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide. They provide socio-cultural benefits such as recreational, medical and contribute towards community development. Forests play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change and protecting biodiversity. Together with soil forests are the world’s largest carbon sinks

The International Year of Forests will help raise awareness and promote global action to sustainably manage, conserve and develop all types of forests, including trees outside of forests. This is an open invitation to the world community to come together and work with Governments, international organisations and civil society, to ensure that our forests are managed sustainably for current and future generations.

Every two days 700 square kilometres (about the size of Co. Cork) of forest cover are lost worldwide. Conversion to agricultural land, unsustainable harvesting of timber, unsound land management practices, and creation of human settlements are the most common reasons for this loss of forested areas.

Current efforts in forest planting and restoration have helped stem some of the net loss of global forest area, but further global action is needed. The real challenge is to move beyond just raising awareness. Member States of the United Nations Forum of Forests recently adopted four ambitious Global Objectives on Forests, which included a commitment to reverse the loss of forest cover worldwide. The Forum is currently in the process of creating an international instrument on forests. However, it is only through broad public participation and by harnessing the skills and practical experiences of forestry practitioners worldwide that we can realize these international objectives and effect change.

Various activities will be organised throughout the world to celebrate the International Year and foster knowledge exchange on practical strategies to promote sustainable forest management. To help facilitate organisation of these activities, Governments, regional and international organisations and civil society organisations are expected to create national committees and designate focal points in their respective countries. The United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat has been tasked with serving as the focal point for the implementation of the International Year of Forests.

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