TREES, PLANT & FUNGI - by Fintan Ryan
Our most common native trees in Borris include oak, ash, hazel, birch, Scots pine, rowan and willow. The Kavanaghs are trying to make their Demesne comprise only native Irish trees.
People brought other trees, such as beech, sycamore, horse chestnut, spruce, larch and fir to Ireland. The Demesne is a beautiful place, particularly in November, a riot of colours, especially the beeches. See Photograph 32
PHOTOGRAPH 32: THE BEECH TREES AT BLACK BOG GATE, DEMESNE,
A very important tree in Irish legend, growing by the river banks around Borris, is hazel. People could store the nuts for use over the Winter.
Same can be said of the edible sweet chestnut known locally as breadnuts, distinguished from horse chestnut by a tassel. Of course, the "spreading" chestnut trees of Longfellow abound in the Demesne and an excellent pastime for us children in the chestnut season was trying to break one another's champion conkers strung on a string.
Berries and Fruits
For children in my schooldays collecting berries was a great pastime and you could sell them. Gerry Cosgrave, as well as buying rabbits, used to buy blackberries and sloes. He had to be careful with the blackberries as some pickers added elderberries, similar in appearance, to bulk the blackberries in the mix.
Families also made blackberry tarts and jam. Sloes from the Blackthorn were used to make wine by burying a bottle with water and sugar for an extended period. On the mountains also are fraughans, European Blueberries, and these fetched a premium price.
PHOTOGRAPH 34: GUELDER ROSE, BARROW LINE, BALLYTEIGLEA, AUGUST 2005
PHOTOGRAPH 33: SLOE BERRIES, SCORT, SEPT 2017
Other sought after berries were wild raspberries and strawberries.
The banks of the Barrow in many places are adorned in Autumn by lots of the beautiful but inedible berries of the Guelder Rose.
Common in our hedgerows are crab apples and damsons, also used to make jam.
No wildlife piece for Borris would be complete without mention of wildflowers.
In May the hedgerows are white with hawthorn blossoms, and as kids, we collected primroses, cowslips and especially bluebells.
An invasive Spanish bluebell species is also seen growing wild, more ornate, but no less beautiful than the native species. The cowslip is not as common as before but still around.
PHOTOGRAPH 35: BLUEBELLS, DEMESNE, MAY 2019
PHOTOGRAPH 36: SHAGGY INKCAP, DEMESNE, OCT 2003
When I was a boy, we would go out in fields each morning to collect mushrooms in the late summer and early Autumn. Those we could not eat during the abundance were made into ketchup or dried for use in stews later in the year. Wild field mushrooms are now very scarce, but occasionally there is a good crop in uncultivated fields. Around Borris people only eat the common field mushrooms and sometimes puffballs, which are both delicious. However, a wealth of other types considered great eating in other countries are there for the collecting, but you need to know which are good and which are poisonous. Photograph 36 below is a shaggy inkcap and is delicious but has to be young and eaten within a few hours, otherwise it becomes inky like its name.