A CAMPAIGN to plant thousands of trees across the Province is set to start – and some say this year it is more important than ever.
National Tree Week begins tomorrow, during which schools, clubs and individuals will be planting free batches of saplings.
But the annual bid to increase the tree population comes just days after ash die-back disease was found in Ulster.
The feared fungal infection has no cure, and was found last week at five sites – with the discovery of another possible 15 announced this Tuesday.
The Department for Agriculture and Rural Development said the results from these 15 sites will not be known until early next week.
In the meantime the Woodland Trust, which supplied the free batches, planted its first Tree Week sapling at Seymour Hill in Dunmurry.
Taking part in the planting was Dame Mary Peters, Ulster Olympic gold medal pentathlete, who said: “I really hope everyone, adults and children, will be inspired to get planting. And, with positive and collective efforts, we really can change landscapes.”
Donald Wilson, 28, manager of Bloomingdale plant nursery in east Belfast, agreed that with the arrival of the killer ash disease Ulster “can use all the trees we can get” – but added that planting ash could be irresponsible.
Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said: “People, wrongly in our opinion, might be reluctant to plant trees at this time.
“From our standpoint, now is the time to be planting – remembering that ash is but one of our native trees.”
The free batches of saplings have already been given out.
But the trust said others should still buy their own saplings from a garden centre to plant as part of the scheme.
Tree Week runs from tomorrow until Sunday, December 2.
It began in Northern Ireland in the mid-1970s before catching on in mainland UK.