What joy to find myself in the beautiful FOTA Frameyard on Saturday 3rd October. I was attracted to attend this programme for educators on planting native Irish Tree seed boxes because of my general interest in the environment. However nothing prepared me for Ecologist Tom O’Byrne’s inspirational talk on the native Irish Oak.
Like many other Irish people I lamented the current scarcity of Oak trees in Ireland – blaming their demise on the requirements of the British navy in times past. Listening to Tom I discovered that our own Irish ancestors, mostly out of necessity, regularly and freely cut down Oak trees for firewood. The result of all this is that today Ireland has the lowest density of tree cover of any European country –only 10% of Ireland is covered in trees and only 1% of this is native trees. We are being deprived of all the benefits that trees bring to our lives. Tom then went on to extol the wonders of the native Irish Oak tree and the part it plays in maintaining the ecological diversity which is so essential to life. The Oak supports up to 400 species of insects, fungi, birds and other wildlife.
One astonishing and significant fact which stayed with me is that a mature Oak absorbs up to 400 litres of water in a single day. Just think what a difference it would make if we replanted the flood plains of our rivers with native Irish Oak trees. I began to imagine the Lee fields – which are so often water logged being instead a forest of Oak trees with all the attending wild life which the Oak both attracts and supports. How much more attractive it would be for the children of Cork than the water logged field it is with a metal structure in the middle!
Tom inspired us with numerous other fascinating facts about the Oak- like how to encourage the acorn to germinate by putting your own spittle on it thus fooling it into thinking that it had travelled a distance from the parent Oak in the body of a creature. The Oak longs to propagate itself and so this year is producing a bumper crop of acorns. However the parent Oak doesn’t want the new Oak to be either too close or too far away. Ideally the acorn should be planted within 10k of the parent tree.
And this is what the workshop was all about – inspiring and encouraging all present to take part in an initiative to collect, plant and tend this year’s bumper crop of acorns so that in a few years we will have Oak saplings to plant throughout Co. Cork.
Michael Harrington of Cork Social Good with the help of Ann Fogarty, a volunteer in FOTA Frameyard organised this event. In the morning we were encouraged and inspired, while in the afternoon we got a hands-on demonstration of what was involved in harvesting and planting the acorns in specially designed seed boxes. All present were educators of some sort – either working in schools or with community groups.
I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to play my part and enable others also to do something practical about Climate Change. I was so inspired and encouraged that next morning I searched for and found an Oak tree in my local area under which I collected 300+ acorns. In the process I discovered the difference between the native Irish Oak and the Turkey Oak which is not native to Ireland. This project is about the native Irish Oak Tree.
The idea is to involve as many schools and community groups as possible to get involved so that all over county Cork we will have seed boxes of acorns growing sapling oaks ready for planting our around the county in a few years.
If you or a group you are involved with would like to get involved you can contact Michael Harrington on: 0852813551 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Also see Cork Social Good on Facebook
By Kathy Foulds
All photographs courtesy of Kathy Foulds.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)
Read more about Emerson on – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Waldo_Emerson