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Hawthorn & The Irish Landscape

Hawthorn & The Irish Landscape

As we move away from the village, we start to encounter wilder areas populated largely with native species. Hawthorn is one of the most widely planted tree species in Ireland, mostly for its ability to act as an effective field boundary, with it’s dense branches and sharp thorns. See here as they cascade in from either side of the path, almost creating a tunnel. The hawthorn goes by many names in Ireland; among the most common are whitethorn, Maytree, and sceach (rhymes with “lock”). Hawthorns are one of the most common trees in Ireland and as luck would have it, they are one of the best trees around when it comes to supporting biodiversity, their bright red haws are a food source for many bird species, their dense branches offer protection for nesting, and their pinky-white flowers support a whole range of pollinators.

 

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Further along the trail you will see a large mature willow, the gnarled bark indicating its advanced age. Young trees have smooth bark, but as they grow the outer layers begin to stretch and crack, creating patterns somewhat unique to each species. Beech tree bark is stretched tight, giving them a smooth appearance, ash trees begin to form diamond shapes in their trunk as they get older and conifers, like the Scots pine, grow so quickly that their bark crack and splits, often flaking off in long thin strips.

Fun fact: Hawthorn trees are traditionally considered to be the meeting place of the fairies, the aes sídhe (pronounced “ace she”). Even the least superstitious farmers would hesitate to cut a fairy tree in their field and so they can often be seen standing alone across the countryside.