Woodlands are communities that are dominated by trees. In recent years, a great number of trees have been planted in South Dublin's Parks to extend the existing woodlands.

Many of South Dublin's parklands have evolved from old estate lands. Willsbrook, Rathfarnham Castle, Hermitage, Griffeen Valley Regional Park and Corkagh Regional Park are all examples. Well developed woodland communities add greatly to the biodiversity of these parks. Woods with several layers of vegetation and decaying matter offer a rich habitat for wildlife, providing food and shelter.

Fast growing 'pioneer' trees, such as Sycamore (Seiceamar), Poplar (Poibleog), Ash (Fuinnseog) and Alder (Fearnóg) are often planted in parks to establish a canopy cover, providing the shelter that enables slower growing trees to become established, such as Beech (Feá), Horse Chestnut (Crann Cnó Capaill), Lime (Líomaí) and Oak (Dair).

Ash trees support a wide range of wildlife; they have a high number of insects and lichens associated with them and the seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. Various fungi are found on both living and dead trees. Ash trees also create a light shade, enabling the growth of a rich ground flora.

Bushy shrubs and small trees, such as Elder, Hazel, Holly, Blackberry, Hawthorn and Wild Cherry form a shrub layer providing important cover for birds and other wildlife.

Sessile Oak (Dair) is Ireland's national tree. It is an excellent tree for wildlife. Over 300 species are associated with Oaks, including birds, invertebrates, mosses, lichens and fungi. The acorns provide food for small mammals, such as squirrels.

Grey Squirrels (Iora Glas) are larger and more adaptable than Red Squirrels and are more commonly seen in the woodlands of South Dublin's parks. Grey Squirrels spend a longer time on the ground than Red Squirrels, where they feed on seeds, particularly acorns, beech nuts and mast, hazelnuts, pine cones, berries and shoots. They were introduced from North America to England in the 19th Century and from there to Ireland in 1913. Their range is spreading in this country. Unfortunately, Grey Squirrels, which strip the bark from young deciduous trees, can become pests in large numbers.

Scots Pine (Péine Albanach) is a coniferous tree. They possess mycorrhizal fungi, which supply their roots with nutrients, enabling them to grow on poor soil. Pine trees provide good nesting sites and shelter for roosting birds, such as Goldcrests and Redpolls, in the cold winter months and many invertebrates are found on its fissured trunk. The seeds are the preferred food of Red Squirrels.

Red Squirrels have been recorded in the woods of Liffey Valley, Griffeen Valley Regional Park and the Dodder Valley Regional Park. Red Squirrels (Iora Rua) are agile climbers and are usually seen in trees. Red Squirrel numbers have declined greatly in England and Wales, but are they are still abundant in parts of Ireland. They can be distinguished from Grey Squirrels by their tufted ears.

The woodlands of Willsbrook Park possess a rich ground cover, with communities that thrive in wet flushes. This ground cover is attractive to wildlife. The extremely fragrant Meadowsweet (Airgead Luachra) is a plant of open, wet woods and damp grassland. It is a source of nectar for bees, moths and butterflies.


Garlic Mustard (Bhóchoinneal) smells strongly of garlic when bruised and is the food plant for the Orange-tip and White butterflies.


Many of the plant species growing in the woodlands of Griffeen Valley Regional Park are riverside and damp woodland species, reflecting the fact that much of the park's woodlands are located near the River Griffeen. These wet woodland areas are the habitats for a particularly diverse range of ferns and mosses. Ferns and mosses are plants that do not produce flowers or seeds, but reproduce using spores. They tend to be found in damp, shady places.

Mature woodlands provide good feeding, nesting and roosting sites for many birds. Great Tits (Meantán Mór), Blue Tits (Meantán Gorm), Bullfinches (Corcrán Coille), Chaffinches (Rí Rua), Goldcrests (Cíorbhuí), Treecreepers (Snag) and Woodpigeons (Colm Coille) are some of the species found in woodlands.

The Treecreeper is a small bird found on mature trees in woodland and hedgerows. It moves up trees in a mouse-like, spiralling fashion, feeding on invertebrates it finds in the gnarled bark crevices. Treecreepers nest behind the bark of mature trees or in ivy.

Another woodland bird is the Goldcrest. It nests under thick cover in conifer trees and feeds on spiders and small insects. It is Ireland's smallest bird.

In many of South Dublin's parks the placement of nesting boxes has encouraged birds such as the Blue Tit to nest. Blue Tits are extremely common birds found in a wide range of habitats, including deciduous woodland. They are mainly insectivores, and forage for small prey on the surface of broad-leafed trees, such as Oak.

Tymon Regional Park's woodlands are an important habitat for the Irish Stoat and the Pipistrelle Bat. Irish Stoats (Easóg) occur throughout the country. They are nocturnal mammals, but can often be seen hunting by day. They are fierce carnivores that feed on rabbits, rodents, birds, eggs, reptiles and fish. Stoats have been persecuted due to their liking for gamebirds, poultry and eggs, but they have an important role to play in controlling mice, rat and rabbit populations. They are protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 (Amendment) Act 2000.

The Pipistrelle Bat (Ialtóg Fheaserach) is Ireland's second smallest species of bat. They are nocturnal and hunt along woodland edges. They have small, weak eyes and have to rely on echolocation for hunting. They emit a continuous stream of sound pulses and the echo is received through its large ears. Bats do not make nests, but roost. Pipistrelle bats are the most abundant bats in Europe, but their populations have declined due to pesticide use and a lack of roosting sites. They are protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 (Amendment) Act 2000.


Red Squirrell (Iora Rua) and Scot’s Pine (Péine Albanach)

Picture Shows a Red Squirrell and Scot’s Pine

Original work carried out under contract for South Dublin County Council

Red Squirrell (Iora Rua) and Scot’s Pine (Péine Albanach) - Original work carried out under contract for South Dublin County Council

Treecreeper (Snag) and Beech (Feá)

Picture shows a Treecreeper feeding

Original work carried out under contract to South Dublin County Council

Treecreeper (Snag) and Beech (Feá) - Original work carried out under contract to South Dublin County Council

Blue Tits (Meanntáin Ghorma) in a nesting box

Picture shows Blue Tits in a nesting box

Original work carried out under contract to South Dublin County Council

Blue Tits (Meanntáin Ghorma) in a nesting box - Original work carried out under contract to South Dublin County Council

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