Offaly is set to be home to a ‘treemendous’ ecological wonder

11 Nov 2016

Standing at the base of a giant redwood in California. Image: Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock

Ireland is set to be home to one of the most ambitious ecological projects on Earth, with plans to open a giant redwood forest in Birr, Co Offaly.

Ecological efforts to restore Ireland’s great woodlands of the past have been ongoing for a number of decades now, but a new effort would appear to be a significant step forward.

In the gardens of Birr Castle in Offaly, a project called Giants Grove is about to get underway, which will aim to create the second-largest giant redwood forest in the world outside of California.

A return to Irish shores

Considered the tallest trees on Earth, a typical giant redwood tree can grow to almost 100 metres tall. 50 registered trees in the US measure above 100 metres, with a bark that can be nearly half a metre thick.

Aside from being an impressive species to look at, fully grown trees are considered one of the greatest prospects for carbon capture in a future of inevitable climate change.

So far, efforts to plant giant redwoods in Europe have been limited to individual trees, but the effort being undertaken by the seventh Earl of Rosse and Crann Trees for Ireland will be the biggest yet.

Despite their association with sunny California, the planting of giant redwoods in Ireland will mark the return of the tree to the country, as they were once native here over 3m years ago before the Ice Age began.

A tribute to Irish diaspora

In explaining the reason for embarking on such an endeavour, the organisers have said the giant trees will be a tribute to the millions of Irish diaspora who have left over the generations “to signify the giant place that these sons and daughters have in our hearts”.

The plan for the project will be that people can sponsor to plant one of the 2,000 redwood trees – for the princely sum of €500 – which will then be tagged with a GPS device, to allow the sponsor to return to the tree that will turn into a true giant.

The project is now underway to begin planting the trees, with a second phase of planting planned to take place in spring 2017, including the planting of some more familiar trees like arbutus and holly.

Speaking to Lonely Planet, Brendan Parsons, the Earl of Rosse said: “This project is very close to my heart. Our grandchildren, their grandchildren, Birr, Ireland and the world will benefit from this magnificent forest grove.

“These will be the biggest trees in Ireland and the largest collection outside of California, fittingly here in Birr, in a place which has the biggest treehouse in Ireland and also had the largest telescope in the world for over 70 years.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic