Tree of the Week – Part 1: The Common Oak

tree of the week number 1 common oak

Common Oak – Quercus robur

It would be impossible to consider writing a “Tree of the Week” blog post about the trees we love and admire, without making the Common Oak number one on that list!

It’s a native, which means that it’s been here for approximately 10,000 years – since the end of the last Ice Age. As the glaciers retreated north, little Oak seedlings started to grow. That’s why most of the oldest ‘veteran’ trees in this country are Oaks…they’re bulletproof and have been adapting to life in Britain for centuries!

Tree of the Week Facts, figures and legends!

  • ┬áThe Common Oak supports a more diverse range of wildlife (including birds, insects and lichen) than any other type of tree, mainly due to their immense mature size and their long lifespan.
  • In England oak trees and their acorns were believed to have magical powers. It was even thought that standing beneath an oak tree during a thunderstorm would give protection from being struck by lightning.

The lightning scar on this Common Oak shows why you really shouldn’t believe this last point!

Tree of the week Oak-tree-with-lightning-scar

  • The latin term ‘robur’ translates as strength, hardiness and firmness in various dictionaries. Last year an oak tucked away in the grounds of Blenheim Palace was estimated to be 1,046 years old! A tree needs to be strong to last that long.
  • A fully-grown Oak in the UK grows – and sheds – 250,000 leaves every year and produces around 50,000 acorns in a good year. (Source: Forestry.gov.uk)

Have you ever seen knobbly lumps growing on Oak trees? They’re called galls – the one below is an Oak Artichoke Gall:

Tree of the week Oak-Artichoke-Gall

If you’re bored, type “Oak gall identification” into any search engine and look at the images – fascinating and weird little structures!

Galls are usually made by insects (although some fungi, bacteria & viruses cause them too). The plants cells are made to grow bigger and mis-shapen until they provide a home and food for the specific creature that made it.

And don’t forget the importance of all those 50,000 acorns. Food for wildlife such as jays and squirrels who always seem to bury and forget them – which then grow to be the veterans of the future!

Personal favourites/recommendations/wish list trees:

  • There are some amazing Oaks at Alton Towers – the gardens are beautiful – it’s not all about the rollercoasters!
  • The European Tree of the Year this year features The Brimmon Oak in Wales…it looks like an absolute cracker!
  • If you want to see a nationally important Common Oak, try The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest.

You can find out loads more about Common Oak trees on websites such as:

The Woodland Trust

BBC – Natural Histories

 

Come back next week for Tree of the Week – Part 2: ??