From little acorns mighty oaks grow

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Over 30,000 acorns have been gathered by National Parks and Wildlife Service outdoor staff from the ancient Derrycunnihy native oak woodlands and Muckross Gardens.

Horticulturalist Gerry Murphy (right) and gardener Stephen Moore (first left) with staff members James Doherty, David Fitzgerald, Sjoerd Van Wierst, Cathal Sexton, Brendan Lynch and Luke O’Sullivan.
Pictures: Valerie O’Sullivan

The woodlands form the most extensive and oldest areas of native woodlands in Ireland and Northern Europe with the largest yew woodland, which occurs along the Muckross Peninsula.

The extensive work carried out was supervised by horticulturalist Gerry Murphy and gardener Stephen Moore and the outdoor staff painstakingly potted or sewed 31,375 acorns – to be exact – mainly Sessile oak, which is native to Ireland.

The mammoth task will ensure that the woodlands will continue for generations and centuries to come.

Head gardener, Stephen Moore, remarked: “What we have here is the forest of the future, germination will take place in early spring and come summertime, the pots will be on benches outdoors for at least two more seasons before being planted out”.

The precious acorns were all collected from registered collection areas of local provenance within the Killarney National Park and other plant species for future gatherings will include yew, birch, holly and alder.

The outdoor staff working in the national park onsite polytunnel included, James Doherty, David Fitzgerald, Sjoerd van Wierst, Luke O’Sullivan, Brendan Lynch and Cathal Sexton.

They also seeded English oak and arbutus tree on Muckross Peninsula, one of the few places it grows in Europe.

The local woodlands form the most extensive and oldest areas of native woodlands in Ireland and Northern Europe

Horticulturist Gerry Murphy explained: “We’re encouraging the planting of more native trees in Killarney National Park”.

Going back to the original owners of Muckross Estate, the Herberts of Muckross, they had their own extensive nursery for planting native trees. Today the 300-year-old champion oak tree in the landscaped garden is still growing strong.

“Nature needs our help from time to time,”Gerry said.

Killarney National Park has over 610 hectares of the most important ancient native oak woodland in Ireland. Oak can live for over 500 years and one of the biggest oaks in Killarney National Park is the Royal Oak on the shores of Lough Lein.

The yew woodland on the Muckross Peninsula is one of the three largest natural yew woods in Europe. The centrepiece iconic yew in Muckross Abbey is believed to be over 550 years old.

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