O Tannenbaum

The Irish government gives tax incentives for tree-planting, and the national forestry organisation, Coillte, has planted millions of spruce, or, as we soon learned to call them, “more fucking Christmas trees”. They are a monoculture cash crop, nothing else. Our birds do not nest in them and nothing grows beneath them once they drop their acidic needles. They are too thickly planted to walk through. On the bogs and in stark Connemara these non-native plantation strips look like a moustache on a Mona Lisa. In lush Killaloe they fit in about as well as the palm trees that struggle in every front garden.

Here and there, as in Killary Harbour, a few pine groves survive. They fit in, somehow, and they also produce good wood in less than forty years. I wonder why more are not planted instead of these Viking invaders? Must ask my friend John, who looks after Co. Clare for Coillte.

7 thoughts on “O Tannenbaum”

  1. Plenty of things grow under spruces here in BC. I expect that it has to do with the composition of the soil, and the amount of rainfall?


  2. Dervala,
    These Norwegian pine infestations are a curse, the only Viking invasion that added not an iota of benefit to the country. Fairy forts, old ‘sweat-house and other antiquities lie hidden beneath them or were ploughed up during the plantings.

    The smaller pine groves that you see are the native Scots pine – the ancient native timber of Ireland. It stood in Galway and Mayo before the bogs – when the entire west coast was a wet forest. It warmed the ancient astronomers who built the first stone circles, the first pagan priests who built the dolmens and fired the first forges that cast the ploughs of the Iron Age and the swords of the Bronze age. But those first people, Fir Bolgs, Tuaithe de Danann, Celts saw fields beneath the trees and began clearing them. But the rain never stopped, and soon, the stumps of the pine forests disappeared, like many of the fields, under bogland.

    From the tower at Peacock’s at Maam Cross, four thousand years of this history lies right in front of you – the soggy bogs (good for nothing but festooned with Keep Out signs for insurance reasons), the dank squares of the forestry plantations, and the occasional solitairy line of scots pine – the last few survivors.


  3. John, thanks for the expansion, and the confirmation that we Irish had made great progress towards a treeless Ireland before the English finished the job. Much of the propaganda that still passes into the guidebooks and history books suggests that the English were entirely responsible for deforesting Ireland.


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