Saturday 24 March 2018

Mary Kenny: what is an Irish tree?

Calling trees "non-native" is a form of arboreal racism

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Trees: how often do we think about them? Perhaps when suddenly they make a difference - when a line of newly planted trees appears on Dublin's O'Connell Street you notice that it does enhance the main boulevard of the city's capital, although alas, cannot quite rescue its squalid ambiance. Climate change has made us more aware of trees: the loggers in Canada and Brazil are damaging the environment when they cut down forests. And those who fly a lot, may, in the future, be asked to plant more trees in Kenya (Africa is short of trees) to offset their carbon footprint.

Thomas Pakenham, of Tullynally at Castlepollard in Co Westmeath, thinks about trees all the time. It would not be unfair to say that he is obsessed with trees: he founded the Irish Tree Society and has written three books about trees - the latest, The Company of Trees, being a beautifully illustrated year's diary about tending to his beloved trees, and travelling to Tibet and South America for arboreal research. He has thousands of trees on his estate. He has planted thousands of saplings and acorns himself and many of the trees that stand in the demesne were planted by, or for, his ancestors.

It's awesome to think that you could be looking at a tree, over 200 years old, which was a sapling when Robert Emmet was a lad, or a tree which already stood tall when Daniel O'Connell was a young lawyer.

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