Bord Bia Bloom's favourite tree
This year's Bord Bia Bloom festival aimed to inspire its 100,000 + visitors to take positive actions towards a healthier, more environmentally conscious world. With this theme and the perfect sunny weather, the Irish Tree Explorers Network (ITEN) picked the ideal stage to kick-start their new project.
Based in Bloom's conservation area, the ITEN marquee was full of engaging activities and materials, from a microscope looking at plant tissue cells to carnivorous plants, gigantic tree seed pods and tree-themed postcards. Over the five jam-packed days, visitors were asked to vote for their favourite tree, stating the reason for their choice. The votes were counted and verified, with 626 votes cast.
With 5% of votes, 5th place went to the hawthorn. Over the weeks leading up to Bloom, hawthorn had been in full blossom across Ireland, giving it lots of good press to boost its votes. One voter said, "We call it the fairy tree because of its flowers and stories." According to folklore, fairy guardians live under these trees, which resulted in them being treated with great respect and care throughout Ireland's history.
In 4th place with 7% of votes was the birch! This was described by voters as "the lady of the woods", "gentle", "graceful", and "delicate." Birch trees are vital for Irish biodiversity, providing food and habitat for hundreds of insect species that feed species further up the food chain.
The horse chestnut came in at 3rd place with 8% of the votes. The tree's conkers were a popular reason for voters. This tree is thought to have been introduced to Ireland in the late 1600s from its native eastern and southern European lands.
With 17% of votes, 2nd place went to the cherry. There are many types of cherry trees, from the famous ornamental cherry blossoms to our native wild and bird cherry trees. These trees all have beautiful blooms, which boost their popularity.
With a massive 25% of votes, Bloom's favourite tree was the oak. This tree is recognised for its importance to wildlife and described as the "gentleman of the woods", "old and wise", "strong and powerful", and "majestic". One person added they loved the oak tree because "when you hug it, it cleans your mind." A very worthy winner.
What is the ITEN project?
No matter your interests, background, age or abilities, the Irish Tree Explorers' Network wants everyone to know about the importance of trees. Partnered with OPW, Coillte and the Tree Council of Ireland, ITEN is developing digital engagement tools accessible across a national network of living tree collections to engage the public with STEM topics. The project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland until 2025. It combines plant science and horticulture with environmental humanities to encourage engagement. This interdisciplinary approach is essential in inspiring people to take responsibility and action as we grapple with era-defining global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and food insecurity.
Top ten tree benefits
- Social benefits- trees positively impact mental health and well-being, reducing stress and encouraging creativity, socialising and outdoor exercise.
- Improve biodiversity- trees provide food and shelter for many animals and plant species.
- Economic benefits- trees can increase retail sales and property values.
- Medicines, food and wood- essential medicines such as Paclitaxel comes from trees. They provide fruits and nuts and the critical material used in many aspects of human life, wood.
- Cultural benefits- trees often inspired the earliest Irish poets and are featured throughout Irish history and folklore.
- Flood mitigation- trees soak up rainwater, reducing runoff and damage from flooding.
- Carbon sequestration- trees capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide.
- Erosion control- trees provide a canopy that intercepts rainfall and roots that bind the soil together.
- Improve water quality- trees reduce sediment and nutrient pollution entering waterways.
- Temperature control- trees cool areas in the summer through shading and warm areas in the winter by reducing wind speeds.
What can you do this summer to engage with trees?
Why not pick a local tree to connect with? Work out what species it is and read about its natural and cultural heritage. Use a tape measure to estimate its age and size (https://youtu.be/B867JqK1lnw). Enjoy its shade and observe what other species use it for food and shelter. Write a poem about the tree, draw or paint it, or use parts of the tree you find on the ground to create your masterpiece! Try propagating the tree for future generations to enjoy.
The ITEN team
Based at UCC, the team includes Dr Eoin Lettice, Dr Barbara Doyle Prestwich, Emma Hutchinson and Vicky Knight from the School of BEES and Prof. Claire Connolly from the School of English and Digital Humanities.
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To keep up with project news and updates, follow iten_ucc on Twitter and Instagram and the Irish Tree Explorers Network on Facebook.