An expected 2,000 new groves of native trees are to be established under the new Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS), according to recent figures released by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

A native tree is defined as a tree that got to Ireland before the last Ice Age occurred and without the help of man says Steven Meyen, a forestry advisor with Teagasc in Donegal.

“Ireland only has 24-25 native tree species in comparison to the UK which has 40-50 native tree species and looking to the continent which has over a 100 different native tree species.”

He recommends the following native trees for GLAS in different sites commonly found in Ireland.

Wet sites:
  • Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa)
  • Willow (Salix alba)
  • Goat willow (Salix caprea)
  • Rusty willow (Salix cinerea subspp. oleifolia)
  • Eared willow (Salix aurita)
  • Downy Birch (Betula pubescens)
  • Rowan /Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
  • Gulder Rose (Viburnum opalus)

These trees thrive in wet, boggy conditions and are ideal suited to establish a grove in these conditions. They will also help to dry up the surrounding site, which may allow different species to grow.  

Sandy or dry sites:
  • Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)

The Scot’s pine thrives in wind exposed sandy soils in particular along the coast.

Fertile sites:
  • Holly (Ilex aquifolium) – Can be difficult to establish due to slow growth at first and can be out competed.
  • Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
  • Bird Cherry (Prunus padus)
  • Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)
  • Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur)
  • Sessile Oak (Quercus petera)
  • Whitebeam (Sorbus aria)
  • Elder (Sambucus nigra)

These trees require higher nutrients, a more sheltered site and free draining soils to establish successfully.

Difficult or challenging sites
  • Sessile Oak (Quercus petera)

Prefer rocky conditions to grow in.

Limestone sites:
  • Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana)

The hazel trees are commonly associated with the Burren in Co.Clare which is known for its limestone soils and demonstrates the conditions it requires to grow. The Spindle require similar conditions and are ideally suited for biodiversity.


Meyen advises farmers in GLAS to choose the trees carefully, ensure a good root establishment and a healthy growth pattern.

He also advises farmers to choose the right species for the right site.

“This will allow a better a success rate when it comes to establishing the grove,” he said.

Preparation of the site is key, according to Meyen.

“Farmers must ensure the site’s soil is nice and crumbly with a minimum amount of unwanted vegetation such as docks, rushes and hungry grasses,” he says.

The planting of these trees occurs between late October to early April and Meyen recommends planting early in the season to prevent any loses occurring due to a dry spell.

Meyen says once the trees have been planted keep an eye on it and ensure that the animals such as hares, cattle and sheep don’t have access to the grove as this will cause damage and could lead to a waste of time, effort and money.

“Ensuring that proper vegetation control is carried out is important to allow the grove to establish quicker due to less competition and more nutrients made available for the trees to use,” he says.