Midlands Native Woodland Early Summer Update
Midland Native Woodland native tree and shrub trials at Baunmore, Co. Kilkenny
Native tree and shrub trials
This week, the Coillte Nature team looked at how our Midlands Native Woodland tree trials are doing, having recently submitted our Form 1 Application and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Midlands Native Woodlands project to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. These tree trials are being carried out at Baunmore in Co. Kilkenny, a Bord na Mona industrial cutaway bog close to the Tipperary border.
Stabilising peat and speeding up regeneration
It’s a beautiful but strange landscape in late May, with bursts of green from the willow and birch that are regenerating where they have found sufficient shelter to establish. This site has been phased out of peat production on a gradual basis over the last decade or so, with some areas slowly returning to nature where possible.
On these higher and dryer sections of the cutaway bog, which will not rewet, we are trialling the seeding and planting of native trees and shrubs, taking our lead from the natural regeneration happening elsewhere. The aim is to speed up the regeneration process and stabilise the bare peat. The trees we are trialling are birch, rowan, Scots pine and alder through seeding, planting bare root and planting in mini-plugs. We have also cut branches or ‘cuttings’ of willow nearby and struck them directly into the peat to test how well they will grow.
New growth on the native trees and shrubs
There is plenty of fresh, new growth on most of the trees that were planted, and they are generally looking healthy. Some of the trees were given tree-shelters to protect them from the harsh wind and the hungry hares. For the trees that were planted from mini-plugs, the shelters have made a huge difference, but for the bare root plants, the benefits are less apparent.
Ecological Lead for Coillte Nature, Declan Little, was pleased with the progress. ‘It’s very encouraging to see new and vigorous growth in the native tree and shrub trials, notwithstanding the cold spring and exposure to winter gales’, he remarked. ‘Early days yet but the seeded and planted areas are progressing well.’
Seedlings of rowan, Scots pine and birch
There are three test plots: shallow peat (less than 20cm deep), medium peat (30-55cm deep) and deep peat (over 100cm). Where trees are seeded, these are further broken down into those which were spring-seeded (late-May, 2020, delayed by the very dry spring) and those sown the following autumn (early November, 2020). We crouch down to look closely where the peat was scarified and sown with birch, Scots pine, alder and rowan early last summer. It’s exciting to see the tiny seedlings braving the harsh conditions, now about a year old and expressing their signature shapes in miniature.