Tree Day: What you should plant to improve biodiversity

Leonie Cornelius says the simplest way to make a difference is to plant a tree or pollinate flowers

Arlene Harris

Trees are the backbone of our planet and without them, we wouldn't survive - whether big or small, they are beautiful to look at and provide food and shelter for countless creatures. But they are also the lungs of the earth as they absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

So it is vital we protect our native species and encourage our children to do the same for the next generation.

Today is Tetra Pak Tree Day where, in association with the Tree Council of Ireland, school children will be learning about the importance of trees. And as part of this year's campaign, over 1,000 native tree saplings were made available for primary schools to help children learn about the need to plant trees and improve biodiversity.

But it's not only school children who can make a difference - everyone can and should do their bit, and we spoke to two gardeners to find out what we can all do to help.

"It might feel like planting a tree or two will make no difference with today's frightening statistics of deforestation and loss of biodiversity, but according to Crowther Lab scientists in Switzerland, planting trees has the potential to remove two-thirds of the carbon dioxide created by human activity," says garden designer, columnist and TV presenter, Leonie Cornelius.

"Admittedly, billions of trees must be planted to make this happen, but imagine everyone planted at least one - and people with space planted large native forests. It's easier than you think to start the process."

City dwellers

Danielle Doody from is a gardener who also makes skincare and soaps from the flowers she grows in her garden in Laois. She says if you live in the city, you can still grow plants which will all benefit the environment.

"If you live in an urban area with only a tiny space, you can still support the eco system by growing some perennial herbs in a few pots," she says. "Herbs like sage, thyme and rosemary are super easy to grow and will not only provide food and shelter for insects and bees, but will, of course, be delicious in your kitchen too."

Leonie Cornelius ( agrees and says urban families can make a difference in many ways. "The simplest is planting trees and pollinating flowers in the urban context - particularly native species which are on the endangered list," she says. "Most people have space for at least one (small) tree and if so choose, a native tree."

In suburbia

Variety is the spice of life in suburbia, according to Cornelius.

"Plant an array of trees, shrubs and pollinating flowers," she advises. "You want to support a wide variety of wildlife, so trees and shrubs with berries are a great start. Elder, rowan hawthorn and blackthorn are great additions. Dense trees and shrubs for animals to live, hide and hibernate in are also very valuable.

"Pollinating flowers for insects are also important and blooms for insects are a great addition to the garden. And consider all the seasons when choosing flowers, berries and seed heads as plants with seed heads are valuable sources of food for animals."

A bit more space

"If you're lucky enough to have a large garden or even a farm, dedicating a small area to wildlife is as easy as planting a couple of trees, some native hedgerow species like hawthorn and holly, and scattering a native wild flower mix," says Doody. "Take a little extra effort to put in a small pond and not only will you be rewarded with an influx of wildlife, but you will be doing your bit by creating a mini ecosystem and improving air quality as trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gases from the air and release oxygen."

Think ahead

Cornelius says we should all teach our children about the world around them.

"Forests are incredibly layered and valuable eco-systems - from havens for wildlife to fungi, these forests play a huge role in sustaining our lives as we know them today," she says.


"Educating our children and future generations about the value of our forests is a valuable step to looking ahead in a sustainable way. And a fun start for kids to start young and learn to respect and enjoy the forest is through