Eucalyptus trees in Ireland
Ireland has been in the vanguard when it comes to plantations of Eucalyptus trees in the Northern hemisphere. Starting in the late 19th to early 20th century trials of Eucalyptus trees were planted with varying degrees of success. Initially these trials were wide ranging, though it was quickly established that Eucalyptus would never produce viable construction timber. Eucalyptus are however especially suitable for biomass and firewood. More recently varieties such as Gunnii and Cinerea have been grown commercially for floral foliage.
For those of you who want to dissect the facts, then the Teagasc web site has a particularly detailed and informative article on the survival rates of particular varieties; Eucalyptus as potential biomass
My Eucalyptus Experience
My personal experience of Eucalyptus survival rates in Ireland at the time of writing, is limited to the years from 2017 onwards. Although I did have success with the species in Scotland, see Eucalyptus & Me.
My Eucalyptus trees planted from seed in Ireland had a rough start !
Firstly I planted into peat pots which were difficult to keep hydrated, then without a Poly Tunnel or sheltered growing area they got battered with the high winds and driving rains during May and June of 2017. All four varieties I planted survived their initial baptism. Those that were exposed suffered wind burn during the darkest and coldest nights of the winter, but bounced back strongly. Then there was the Beast from the East cold snap in February 2018, and the winter dragged on late with cold temperatures and storm force winds. The new growth shrivelled. Initially I thought I had made a mistake, but was astonished when most of them recovered and by mid June were thriving. Not the end of the poor year though as the very dry conditions during June and July caused a severe soil moisture deficit, as much as 70%. All plants need hydration, even the grass was burnt off ! There was a noticeable increase in growth when the drought abated.
Most of my Eucalyptus survived this testing start to their lives. As an indicator, I lost about 25%, mostly on the exposed area, where I’d also sprayed heavily with D50 the previous summer. Interestingly I lost about 10% of Common Alder, and a near neighbour who planted bare rooted conifers lost all of them from wind burn, both native species ! Draw your own conclusions.
Besides the phenomenal growth rates, another incentive to planting Eucalyptus trees is the recent emergence of Ash dieback. Farmers are being encouraged to replant with alternative species, IFA report on Ash dieback. I am evidently promoting Eucalyptus as an alternative commercial source of forestry for firewood.
Eucalyptus seeds are tiny, possibly smaller than a pin head !
Here is a photo of Eucalyptus Gunnii seeds germinating. As you can see, no larger than a small grain of sand
Within a couple of weeks the first actual leaves form, and a year after this, something that definitely looks like it could be a tree !
This specimen is around twenty years old and eighteen metres tall.