Birr Castle Plans Largest Redwood Grove Outside California (UPDATE)

Lord Rosse and his grandchildren, William,Olivia, Bee, and Charlotte with one of the redwoods on the grounds of Birr Castle. (Photo: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography)
Lord Rosse and his grandchildren, William,Olivia, Bee, and Charlotte with one of the redwoods on the grounds of Birr Castle. (Photo: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography)

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
December / January 2017

The largest forest grove of giant redwoods outside of California will be planted through a public participation project by Birr Castle and the Irish environmental organization Crann – Trees for Ireland. The initiative, called Giants Grove, was announced in October and celebrates the 30-year anniversary of Crann and the 80th birthday of Brendan Parsons, the 7th Earl of Rosse in Birr Castle, Co. Offaly.

The redwoods of Giants Grove will be the first rooted in Irish soil since the most recent Ice Age, symbolizing Ireland’s global concern for biodiversity enhancement and conservation in a time where climate change throws the future of California’s own redwood population into uncertainty.

“This project is very close to my heart,” Lord Rosse said in a public statement. “Our grandchildren, their grandchildren, Birr, Ireland, and the world will benefit from this magnificent forest grove.” Planting begins in spring 2017. ♦

Update: President Michael D. Higgins, who is patron of Crann – ‘Trees for Ireland,’ visited Birr April 21, 2017 to officially launch Giants Grove by planting a tree, which was named in his honor. Pupils from Gaelscoil na Laochra, Birr and Kildorrery National School, Cork who have been nurturing seedlings for the project also took part in the ceremony. 

Speaking at the planting, President Higgins said, “These giant trees, with their height, great bulk, long life, numerous offshoots and deep root system, will be a living tribute to the enduring memory and flourishing legacy of those who have left this world, as well as signifying the central place our Irish diaspora and migrants hold in the hearts and minds of those in Ireland. By sponsoring redwoods in Birr Castle’s Giants’ Grove, members of our diaspora can, both metaphorically and very tangibly, replant roots in Ireland – roots that will grow, thrive, and thus enrich and sustain both our lives and our natural environment.”

He continued, “We all know how vital trees, forests, and woodlands in general, are to our collective future. Forests are not just a resource amenable to commercial exploitation, a source of wood and timber: for so many communities around the world, they are a crucial source of food, fodder, fuel, medicine as well as a rich well of beliefs and traditions; everywhere, forests and woodlands are irreplaceable habitats for wildlife, as well as indispensable carbon sinks and reservoirs. They are, in other words, essential to the maintenance of all forms of life, both social and natural – the two being, of course, deeply interrelated.”

Lord Rosse said, “This launch was planned to draw attention to this project which is very much linked to Ireland’s Diaspora. We are deeply honoured that President of Ireland Michael D Higgins is here today. We are also grateful to the many sponsors attending from places as far away as New Zealand and the US.  It is anticipated that Giants Grove will endure for the next one thousand years or more. Giants Grove gives the opportunity to individuals at home and abroad to create this magnificent redwood forest grove in the heart of the Irish Midlands. It is designed to signify the giant place that our sons and daughters have in our hearts. Here we can also honour the memory of loved ones gone before us. The return to Ireland of redwoods, which were native here before the geologically recent ice age, is a symbol of Ireland’s global concern for biodiversity enhancement and conservation, especially at the present time where climate change represents a threat to the long-term survival of redwoods in California.”

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