Reaching For The Sky

Scot's pine wood in Kildare (1a)
Stately trees (1b) Credit Geraldine James

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) or Giúis in Irish is an evergreen conifer which is native to Ireland.  It colonised the country about 12,000 years ago but was thought to have become extinct because of wetter climatic conditions about 1500 years ago (1a:1b).  This theory, however, was never proven and occasional mention of this tree occurs in recorded history. For example, in 1013, Máel Mórda, the king of Leinster presented three masts made from pine as tribute to Brian Boru, the king of Munster, in Kincora.

Bog deal (2)

Evidence of these pine forests can be found in bogs where sometimes huge stumps of the red wood called “red deal” can often be seen.  This wood was used for burning and for providing light. The resin was used for sealing boat joints. Bog deal is easily distinguished from bog oak which is black (2).
In the 18th century new Scot’s pine trees were introduced to Ireland from Scotland, hence the name, “Scot’s pine”.

Pine cone where seeds were eaten by squirrel (3)

However, extensive research by scientists from Trinity College, Dublin has recently discovered pines in the Burren that are native, and seeds have been collected from these to propagate the native species.  Burrenbeo Trust aims to establish mini forests of these around the Burren which is an area that was once dominated by pine woodland. Individuals can purchase trees to aid this conservation project at https://burrenbeo.com/the-burren-pine-project/

The native red squirrel loves the seeds of pine cones and the conservation of this species which was declining will depend on the planting of more Scot’s pine trees (3). A wood composed only of the stately Scot’s pine trees is an impressive sight.  The scaly bark of a tree is an orange-brown colour, the needles are bluish-green and grow in pairs and the cones which contain the seeds are grey brown (4a;4b;4c). The wood obtained from them has a reddish colour and is called “red deal”.  White deal is derived from spruce trees.

Bark (4a)
Leaves (4b)
Pair of needle shaped leaves (4c)