Trees of Woodlawn Woods
Selection of trees visible along Nature Trail
There are two types of oak native to Ireland. These are Sessile Oak (Dair ghaelach) and Pedunculate Oak (Dair ghailda). These trees can hybridise making it often very difficult to say with confidence at which oak you are looking at! As a loose rule however the Sessile Oak is more likely to be found on poorer soils making it the tree more likely to be found on the upland, western and northern parts of Ireland. The Pedunculate oak by contrast is usually found on better soils. The leaves of both oaks are similar in that they are usually almost oval with between 9-5 deep lopes on either side.
Hazel is one of the most widely known of Irish trees. This may relate to the fact that it is one of our most widespread woodland plants or maybe it is because its flexible branches had many uses in the past. Hazel rods were traditionally used as a fencing material, while they were also used for making eel or lobster traps. Hazel is particularly fond of growing on limestone type soils. Hazel usually grows as a multi-stemmed shrub growing between 1 to 6 metres. Hazel leaves are almost round, rather wrinkly, green and hairy. A commonly anticipated sight that is awaited each spring with great excitement, is the appearance of the yellow lambs’ tails or catkins. This is a great sign that the worst of the winter is behind us. Also many autumnal walks are spent hoping to spot some ripe hazel nuts. It is advisable to carry a nut cracker rather than using ones teeth for the purpose of opening hazel nuts!
Common Alder (Fearnóg)
The Alder is a widely distributed deciduous tree growing to 20 metres or more. It may be found in wettish areas such as along rivers banks and streams. It thrives in boggy ground. Alder is a productive timber tree and will grow quiet rapidly. The leaves are round or broadly oval with an indented tip and toothed margins. It has separate male and female catkins. The female catkins when ripe are brown and woody. These can help with identifying the tree in winter time. Folklore tells us that Alder timber was used to make shields for warriors going into battle. Alder timber is also known to be resistant to decay when submerged in water. For this reason, it was used to make sluice gates and other structures long streams, rivers and canals. Alder was also the chosen wood for making clogs which were popularly sold to the cotton mills in England.
The Ash is a native Irish tree which can reach heights of up to 40 metres. It is a common and abundant tree in hedges and woodlands in County Galway. It prefers well drained soils. Ash is one of the last trees to come into leaf and one of the first to lose its leaves in autumn. Ash twigs are thick and grey with obvious black buds in winter time. The seeds are often referred to as keys due to their clumped appearance. The wood of ash trees is used for hurls, snooker cues and furniture. Ash is also a good burning timber and unlike some trees it will burn well even when fresh and green.
A beautiful stand of beech trees are planted just inside the forest gates near the train station. The beech tree has a silvery grey bark and can grow up to 40 metres in height. In the spring time, the leaf buds open to show almost luminous yellow green leaves. These leaves darken as the year progresses before slowly turning from orange to brown in autumn time. The fruits (nuts) of a beech tree occur as paired nuts that are surrounded by a spiny brown husk. This casing splits into four parts to release the nuts. Every couple of years there is a ‘mast year’ in which a bumper crop of nuts are produced. In winter, the buds are reminiscent of a slender cigar.