Top Ten Trees
Wollemia nobilis, a native of Australia, is often described as a "living fossil." Until its discovery in 1994, the tree was only recognised through fossil records dating back 200 million years. Through plant tissue culture methods, the 100 or so plants which are known to exist in the wild have been propagated and sent around the world to be planted. The specimen at University College Cork (UCC) arboretum is part of this global conservation initiative to protect this critically endangered species. The unearthing of Wollemi Pine is considered one of the most remarkable botanical findings in recent history.
The pair of Sequoiadendron giganteum, or Giant Redwoods, standing tall at 27 and 29 meters outside UCC's library, are relatively young. When fully matured, these awe-inspiring trees can reach a staggering height of up to 100 meters, making them the world's tallest trees. Native to the Sierra Nevada region of California, these redwoods typically have a lifespan of 2,200 years!
Salix babylonica holds a significant place in the field of medicine. For thousands of years, the active ingredient derived from the bark, Salicin, has been utilised as a remedy for pain. Interestingly, this is the historical origin of Aspirin, a drug now indispensable in modern medicine for its ability to alleviate pain and thin blood.
The Ginkgo biloba is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees dating back 270 million years, predating even the dinosaurs. Some of these remarkable trees have been recorded to live up to a thousand years. Once planted in temple gardens across Japan and China, Ginkgo biloba has become a favoured choice in urban landscapes across the globe. Their incredible resilience to pollutants, fungicides, insects, disease, bacteria, drought, and smog has contributed to their popularity. In addition to their beauty and hardiness, these trees are also cultivated for their medicinal properties.
Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata', otherwise known as the Irish Yew tree, exhibits a uniquely upright growth pattern, forming broad columns that are often a distinctive feature in graveyards. Even though all parts of the tree contain toxic substances, the foliage is harnessed for its medicinal properties, and the wood is highly valued for its versatile uses. Irish Yew trees are renowned for their extensive lifespan.
Arbutus unedo is a petite evergreen tree. It blooms in May with small, bell-shaped, creamy white or pink flowers and produces vibrant red, strawberry-like fruits in the autumn. This species is native to regions of Iberia, Brittany, and the southwestern parts of Ireland, with a large concentration around Killarney, though it can also be found in areas of Sligo.
Originating from the Balkan Peninsula, the Aesculus hippocastanum, known as the conker tree, was first brought to Ireland from Turkey in the late 16th century. While it's infrequently seen in woodland areas, this sizeable, deciduous tree is common in parks, gardens, streets, and village greens. In May, it blooms white flowers with pink or yellow spots, serving as a significant source of nectar for bees. By early autumn, the tree yields large, prickly fruits that encapsulate shiny brown conkers.
The Quercus x hispanica 'Lucombeana', a semi-deciduous tree, is a hybrid of the Turkey and Cork Oak species. The tree was discovered and subsequently named in 1762 by William Lucombe, a horticulturist in the UK.
The Platanus x acerifolia, a hybrid between an American sycamore and an Oriental plane tree, is extensively found in urban areas. Its wide presence in cities like London and others across Europe can be attributed to its ability to absorb pollution and compact root system, making it an excellent choice for urban planting.
Located at the Western Road entrance to the UCC campus, you'll find the Pinus radiata or Monterey pine. Although native to California, its rapid growth, quality timber, and low soil demands have made it one of the most widely planted trees globally.