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Trees are one of Ireland's most precious pieces of heritage, remarkable for many reasons such as their age, size, location in the landscape, botanical attributes, aesthetic appeal, and historical and folklore connections. Ireland has a rich but threatened heritage of such trees, found in our native woodlands, historic parklands and estates, along roadsides and in hedgerows, agricultural fields and occasionally in housing estates and development sites.
Heritage Trees of Ireland presents 150 of these remarkable trees: rag trees, hanging trees, trees at holy wells, those of exceptional size or age, trees associated with historical/military events, and trees important to the community. Well-known examples are the 'Hungry' Tree at King's Inns, Dublin, a London plane that appears to be consuming a bench; Lady Gregory's 'Autograph' Tree at Coole Park, Galway – it is a copper beech signed by WB Yeats, his brother Jack, George Bernard Shaw, the poet John Masefield, Sean O'Casey and other famous people. Ireland's oldest native tree is the Silken Thomas Yew tree in the grounds of St Patrick's College in Maynooth. It has a girth of 14 metres and is 700-800 years old. As for Ireland's tallest native tree, it is a 40-metres high ash tree growing in the grounds of Marlfield House, Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The Muckross Friary Yew in Killarney stands in the centre of the cloisters of the ruined Muckross Friary, one of the most famous trees in Ireland. Not all heritage trees are so dramatic and some can be quite unremarkable in appearance. For example, a lone hawthorn tree marks the summit of Freestone Hill, Co. Kilkenny and folklore prevents its removal.
So, illustrated with fine photography, these pages present a fascinating world of trees unique to Ireland with connections dating back over thousands of years.
Aubrey Fennell is a champion-tree hunter and authoritative voice on their behalf. He has recorded over 10,000 champion trees in Ireland for the Tree Register of Ireland's database at the National Botanic Gardens. Aubrey lives in Carlow among his own champion trees.
Carsten Krieger, from Germany, visited Ireland in 1989 and now lives in Clare. He believes photography protects and raises awareness of nature. His books include The West of Ireland - A Photographer's Journey (The Collins Press, 2009).
Kevin Hutchinson's interest in trees began at the de Vesci Estate in Abbeyleix where his father and grandfather were gardeners. His career included the Forest and Wildlife Service, Irish Timber Growers Association and Coillte. He is currently vice president of the Tree Council of Ireland.