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Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce as a tree species gets a bad rap in Ireland. Making up c 45% of commercial plantations and grown sometimes as near monocultures – various labels are put on it: cutting off communities, acidification of surface water runoff, ‘dead’ forests supporting little wildlife, sharp needles etc.

However Sitka is a fine handsome tree, we have one behind the house that is perhaps 25 years old and as photographed here is quite striking. The bark is moderately flaky/ fissured and if you poke at it, lots of wee insects scurry away. By contrast we also have a couple of Norway Spruce and whilst these have the classic arrow shape, they are nowhere near as pretty.

Likewise if you come across older stands of Sitka Spruce in Coillte forests, they are stately and handsome trees. At this stage plenty of light penetrates to the forest floor and they are as good a habitat as any conifer plantation, supporting a range of mammals, birds and insects.

So if there is a problem with Sitka, it’s in how plantations are designed and managed, not the tree itself.