Tree of the Month: the Oak

Explore local parks and woodlands this September and keep an eye out for our Tree of the Month - the Oak, also known as Quercus robur

OAKTREEGettyImages-154147050-376ad42

Despite the fact that it may stand for a millennium, the oak is a surprisingly fast-growing tree. From a sapling, it may spend 100 years reaching impatiently for the sky, before easing into maturity and spreading itself outwards rather than up. 

Advertisement

The bark is rich in tannin and as it grows old so it hardens like crocodile skin, armouring a trunk that may be three metres across. 

As September approaches, the purple hairstreak butterflies dance their last in the canopy, having deposited their eggs at the bases of the leaf-buds. In spring, the newly hatched caterpillars are sought by many birds, not least the pied flycatcher – a species that favours the oak above any other tree.

The acorns are just beginning to brown, but won’t fall until later in autumn when squirrels will be busy on the forest floor – collecting and caching alongside the electric blue flash of the jay, who will bury acorns by the hundred in order to dig them out when winter bites.

The leaves have distinctive rounded lobes and, though small, are robust and feel almost as if formed from fabric. They carry their deep green late into the year and often share the branches with apple-shaped galls of the wasp species Biorhiza pallida.    

Oakwood has long been used in the construction of houses and boats, and by furniture makers and coopers. It has great strength, and man has long revered its majesty. This is a tree heralded throughout history; in Greek mythology the oak was regarded as a tree sacred to Zeus, while the ancient Germanic peoples believed that their gods lived within the branches themselves.

Advertisement

Image: Getty