Irish Trees and shrubs
Noble Fir – grows to 50m tall in Ireland and is used in the western area as forestry since it has proven to be wind and harsh weather resistant.
Sitka Spruce - popular and widely planted forestry tree growing to 60 metres.
European Larch - widely planted for forestry, in parks, on roadsides and in shelter belts. Fast growing to 35 metres.
Scots Pine – Common in Ireland 7,000 – 9,000 years ago when the climate was drier. Died out around 300AD when the Atlantic
climatic influences made Ireland wetter and warner. Reintroduced about 1700.
Lodgepole Pine – common in commercial forestry reaching
about 25 metres.
Monterey Pine – rapidly growing reaching 35 metres. Growth rates of 2.5metres a year have been recorded but it is not completely hardy and may suffer from frost damage.
Juniper (Native) – can be an upright tree or shrubby, prostrate bush.
Yew (Native) – can be a large spreading tree or a shrub of up to 25 metres tall. It is rare in the wild and occurs mainly in woods and rocky places, and cliffs in the west, especially the Burren and Kerry,
and in the north.
London Plane - a frequent street tree in Ireland
Irish Elm/Wych Elm (Native) – Now commonly planted in most areas but rare as a native except in the more remote parts of the west and north west where patches of trees unaffected by Dutch Elm disease still exist.
English Elm – grows very tall and erect and may become quite massive.
Bog Myrtle (Native) – characteristically a bushy species of Irish Bogs which is also found on some lake shores. Common in much of the west becoming more rare towards the east. Grows to about one metre.
Beech – Fossilised pollen has been found which suggests that this may have once been a native tree. It can grow to 40 metres.
Spanish Chestnut / Sweet Chestnut – can grow enormous and ancient up to 30 metres tall with a huge girthed trunk.
Sessile Oak (Native) – growing to around 40 metres tall once
covering the upland, western and northern parts of Ireland, even on poor soil. The best remaining woods are now found in Co Kerry.
Pedunculate Oak (Native) – found on better soil, although few midland woods remain. Frequently grows taller than the sessile oak.
Silver Birch (Native) – grows to 30 metres widely planted in gardens, hedges and as a street tree. It also sometimes appears wild in the midlands and south beside lakes, in scrubby woods, bogs and on sandy soil.
Downy Birch (Native) – Grows to around 25 metres with spreading branches that are not pendulous like the silver birch.
Common Alder (Native) – Smallish and grows on stream, river and lake shores and banks, thriving in boggy soils and in moist woodlands.
A close relative – non native, is the Grey Alder which has gone wild in a few areas from domestic plantings.
Hornbeam – Widely planted especially in estate woodlands, most frequently kept as a hedge.
Hazel (Native) – One of the most widespread woodland plants in Ireland, found in oak and ash woodlands, typically as a multistemmed bushy shrub growing to about 6 metres. Also common in hedgerows and sometimes as the dominant species in dense thickets.
White Poplar – Usually around 15-20 metres tall and occasionally to 40 metres, preferring moist soft ground.
Aspen (Native) – May grow up to around 20 metres tall but also occurs as a suckering shrub in hedgerows. Most common in the rocky and wild areas in the west and north in hedgerows. Occasionally found in the east and south where it was probably
Black Poplar (Possibly native) – Found especially in the
midlands, mostly in hedgerows in wet farmland near deep watery ditches, especially along the River Shannon. Grows to around 35 metres.
A commonly planted tree is the Lombardy Poplar,
tall and upright, many planted in avenues where, since they are fragile, they may become dangerous.
Crack Willow / Withy Willow – fast growing to 25 metres . At waters edge a tangled mass of red roots may appear growing into the water.
White Willow – growing to about 25 metres, often pollarded.
A variety of this the Cricket Bat Willow/Blue Willow may also be found. All common throughout Ireland in hedging, river and stream banks and a wide variety of wet soil habitats.
Osier – A vigorous willow shrub or tree, 3-6 metres tall often pollarded to give a head of long straight flexible twigs. Common in all parts of Ireland especially riversides, banks and ditches.
Goat Willow (Native) – growing to around 10 metres tall and sometimes more. Common through occurring on damp and rough ground, woods and hedges, not just wet habitats like most willows.
Sally Willow (Native) – The Sally is a robust shrub or small tree to around 10 metres. Two subspecies grow in Ireland, the Rusty Willow and the Grey Willow. Probably the most common willow in Ireland occurring in hedges, field margins, by ditches, stream and riverbanks and in scrubby woodlands.
Eared Willow (Native) – A shrub willow of around 3 metres tall. Common especially on mountains and moorland by stream banks, field margins and in damp scrubby woods.
Willow species frequently hybridise between each other making recognition difficult.
Rhododendron – Many species and hybrids thrive and were possibly once native (before the ice age). May grow to 3 metres and is evergreen.
Strawberry Tree (Native) – A small evergreen tree, frequently found in churchyards around Britain. In the Middle Ages it as much used for charcoal burning and therefore became extinct from many areas. Also found on woodland margins and lake shores where most trees are probably quite ancient.
Escallonia – a common evergreen shrub, never more than 3 metres high, salt resistant and therefore found near the coastline.
Blackberry/Bramble (Native) – Sometimes deciduous and sometimes semi-evergreen shrubs. Abundant in Ireland and having over 2000 micro species.
Dog Rose (Native) – found in hedges, scrubs and thickets, especially in the midlands and south east.
Blackthorn / Sloe (Native) – Dense shrub up to 6 metres tall. A common tree in hedges and woods. Not tolerant of deep shade and will die out with taller trees.
Wild Cherry (Native) – grows to 25 metres tall, widespread mainly in hedges and woodland.
Wild Plum – Tree or large shrub to 12 metres, well distributed in the wild, especially the midlands and east.
Dwarf Cherry – a densely suckering shrub, but as a tree may reach 8 metres. Mainly found in hedges.
Bird Cherry (Native) – a tree or shrub to 15 metres, rare in Ireland although widely distributed. Mainly found in the north west especially on damp soil in rocky places as woods or thickets.
Portuguese Laurel – May grow to 17 metres but is more commonly a bushy shrub of around 6 metres. Commonly planted in woods, especially ancient feudal lands and shrubberies.
Cherry Laurel – a fast-growing shrub or small tree of up to 7 metres. Commonly planted in gardens, woods, estate woodlands, and shrubberies. Often self-seeds. Especially in Southern Ireland.
Crab Apple (Native) – small tree or large shrub to 10 metres widely distributed in hedges, woodland and scrub.
Rowan / Mountain Ash (Native) – A slim tree reaching about 20 metres, common throughout Ireland in woods, by mountain streams and valleys, and in rocky habitats.
Irish Whitebeam (Native) – Shrub or small tree to 6 metres. Only found in Ireland distributed throughout the west, midlands and east, but rarely found in the north or south. Found in woods, hedges, rocky habitats and scrubs on limestone.
Several other native whitebeams are also found very similar to the Irish Whitebeam and difficult to distinguish from it.
Cotoneaster – A range of these grow around Ireland as evergreen shrubs with ascending branches of around one metre long. Birds distribute the seeds so it is found in quite a few places, especially rocky or gravelly places.
Hawthorn (Native) – Bushy shrub or small tree to around 15 metres, one of Irelands most abundant shrubs occurring in woods, especially the margins, in scrubs and nearly every rural hedge.
Broom (Native) – A shrub of around 2 metres tall found in dry heath, open woods, dry banks and roadsides. Although widespread through Ireland it is rarely common.
Gorse / Furze / Whin (Native) – Two species are found in Ireland; one flowers in spring and the other in autumn. A bushy shrub usually growing 1-2 metres tall, found throughout Ireland, but especially in the east on lime-free soils in rough pastures, heaths and rocky places, but not in woodland.
Mountain Gorse / Western Gorse (Native) – Bushy shrub, smaller than above.
Fuchsia – Much used in gardens and as hedging growing well even on boggy or peaty soils therefore being ideal for Western Ireland. Forms and bushy, spreading shrub up to 3 metres tall. Not frost tolerant and therefore rare in the Midlands, east and north.
Dogwood (Native) – A shrub of up to 4 metres tall. Now rare in the wild and found mainly on limestone soils in woods, scrub and rocky places.
A related plant introduced from the US is the red-osier dogwood which is established quite widely on water margins.
Spindle (Native) – The only wild Irish Spindle is a small deciduous shrubby tree widespread in the centre and parts of the west, but rarer in the east and north.
Holly (Native) – Small evergreen tree or shrub widespread in woodlands, especially oak woods as undergrowth and hedging.
Buckthorn (Native) – Not common in Ireland apart from the north and west growing on limestone as a shrub or small tree 4-6 metres tall. Occurs in woods, scrub, on riverbanks and rocky lake shores.
A close relation the Alder Buckthorn is a rarer Native small tree of rocky or boggy habitats.
Horse Chestnut – Quite familiar throughout Ireland although rare in the wild. – Mainly ornamental.
Sycamore – Can grow large, but is often a weedy tree of wastelands, woods, hedges and gardens making an excellent shelter belt tree for the coastal regions.
A close relative the Field Maple is occasionally planted in hedging in the east.
Ivy (Native) – A climber which can become woody and can reach over 35 metres height. Common in woodlands, hedgerows, on rocks, walls or creeping along the ground in shady woods or hedgebanks.
Buddleia / Butterfly Bush – Large deciduous shrub, a relative newcomer to Ireland growing to around 4 metres tall.
Ash (Native) – A tall tree of around 40 metres, common and abundant in woodlands and hedging, growing best on deep, moist lime-rich soils but is not fussy about its habitat.
Wild Privet (Native) – A semi-evergreen shrub growing to around 4 metres tall occurring naturally only on a few cliffs and rocky habitats.
Easily confused with its close relative the Japanese / Garden Privet is a more reliable evergreen
Elder (Native) – A tree or shrub to 10 metres tall, associated with disturbed soils and wastegrounds preferring nitrogen rich soils.
Guelder Rose (Native) – a deciduous shrub 2-4 metres tall occurring in woods, scrub and hedging, especially on moist soils.
The Snowball Tree is a variant of this that is found in gardens.
The Wayfaring Tree is another variant, but introduced and found mainly in the east.
Snowberry – a small, twiggy deciduous shrub in hedging spread by suckering, thriving in shade and tolerating low temperatures and frost.