Nature on our doorsteps - The Fairy Tree

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

“All night around the thorn tree the Little People play.”

These are the opening lines of the old song ‘The Fairy Tree’ which reflect the long-held belief in Irish folklore that hawthorn trees were beloved of the ‘Little People’, or the fairies.

Hawthorns crimson haws are very noticeable in hedgerows at the moment compressor

Hawthorn’s crimson haws are very noticeable in hedgerows at the moment

This is only one example of the many close cultural connections that we in Ireland have with the natural world around us.

Hawthorn was always seen to have special powers. Bushes that grew alone in the middle of a field or an open area were especially respected, or even feared.

It was therefore considered very bad luck to cut down or to interfere with such a tree and anyone who did so risked dire consequences that ranged from ill health, accidents, to even death.

Hawthorn was often found growing beside holy wells, where its magical power was believed to enhance the ability of the water to cure ills.

Hawthorn is also known as Whitethorn, describing precisely its lacy white springtime blossoms and the sharp thorns that occur along its twigs.

Stand alone Hawthorns were once seen as being particularly powerful compressor

Stand-alone Hawthorns were once seen as being particularly powerful.

In autumn, the white blossoms are replaced by crimson red haws, the fruit of the Hawthorn.

These haws will play a vital role over the next few months of winter, feeding our native birds and the migrating flocks of fieldfares and redwings from Scandinavia.

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