Henry - The tree breeder.

  • J. O'Driscoll Research Branch, Forest and Wildlife Service, Sidmonton Place, Bray, Co. Wicklow.
Keywords: Augustine Henry, tree breeding, hydrids, conifers, oaks, genetics, varieties, forestry history, botany, hybridisation.


Dr. Augustine Henry joined the Chinese Imperial Maritime Custom Service in 1881 and spent two tours of duty in China between 1881 and 1900. (Morley 1979). His interest in forestry, which had commenced during his years in China finally blossomed in the winter of 1901/02 following a meeting he had with Prof. Schlick, the well-known German forestry expert. His desire to follow a forestry course stemmed from his wish to do something worthwhile for Ireland. At this stage of his life he was 45 years of age. Undeterred by the diversity of the subject he plunged straight into it with all the enthusiasm he had shown during his years collecting botanical specimens in China. He soon found the study difficult mainly on account of the language problem as most of the lectures were in French. However it was the field work which really excited him. He saw, how, with modem cultivation techniques, the potential of forestry could be developed. He became aware of the importance of choosing the correct species for the site conditions and not the haphazard planting of species which had been carried out at Knockboy in the late 19th century. The value of trees other than as a source of lumber was also clearly demonstrated in the Alps where they were used as soil stabilizers and as preventors of avalanches and landslides. He took particular note of species which grew on bogs as he felt that such areas would have the greatest potential for afforestation in Ireland (Pimm 1966). As a positive move in this direction he forwarded seed of American larch (L. occidentalis) to his brother for growing on peats in Ireland. This early awareness of the importance of ecology was to permeate all his writings in later years.
How to Cite
O’Driscoll, J. (1981) “ Henry - The tree breeder.”, Irish Forestry. Available at: https://journal.societyofirishforesters.ie/index.php/forestry/article/view/9485 (Accessed: 4October2023).
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