The cherry is one of the better know trees in Ireland because it is often planted as on ornamental street-tree. It ushers in the spring with a wonderful splash of colour. However, most of these white and pink blossoms have come from afar, mainly from Asia in particular from Japan.
World wide there are over 400 species of cherry and many of the common edible fruits such as almond, peach, apricot, plum, damsons and our own blackthorn which produces the sloe, belong to the cherry family. The cherry laurel, a garden introduction, which is now growing wild in many of our woodlands is also a member of this family.
Like birch and oak, there are only two species of cherry which are native to Ireland; bird cherry, which is rare, and the more common wild cherry, also called 'gean'. Today, cherry is mainly found in hedgerows and rarely forms woodlands. Cherry-wood is one of the most valuable timbers grown here. It matures in 60 years which is fast for a broad-leafed tree in Ireland but it requires fertile sheltered sites and does not thrive in exposed areas. Cherry-wood has a distinctive reddish colour and is much sought after.
The dark berries ripen in August but can be difficult to locate; you have to find them by mid August as the birds may have found them before you! The cherry tree has a most attractive flaky bark with horizontal rings. Strangely, the cherry is not found in any of our placenames. There are few references to the use of the wood in archaeological records. However, there are many references to finds of cherry 'stones' indicating that it was always a prized food source! The tallest tree is 25 metres.
Politico contains digitised versions of several prominent Irish magazines published since 1968. Over 400 editions are available, which appear online just as they did in print. Access them here. Subscribe here.