Friday, 18 June 2010

CLOSE UP - Oak - Quercus robur

The native oak, Quercus robur, is one of the most important species of tree.  It supports more species of insect and invertebrate than any other single tree.  350 species of insect depend on the leaves, galls, acorns and heartwood of the oak. 

Older trees not only provide food for birds and mammals, they offer nesting sites for birds and roosts for bats.

As well as part of our natural ecology, the classic English Oak is part of our cultural identity.  Left to grow unhindered, thi s is a very large tree with a broad high - domed open crown and a short, thick heavily fissured brown bark. 

Don't be put off by this.  The oak can be pollarded, to contain its size, or even coppiced.  They are sometimes seen as multi-stemmed trees in hedgerows.  Have a go.  The Japanese have been bonsiaing oaks for centuries!  The one on the right is a young pollarded oak at Burnham Beeches, Epping Forest.

The leathery, more or less stalkless leaves have four- to five-rounded lobes on either side. They can be susceptible to frost-damage in spring, and insect attack later in the year, but without long-term harm to the tree. The leaves provide dense shade and a display of coppery-brown autumn colour. The acorns usually form in pairs on long stalks, as opposed to the stalkless acorns of sessile oak. This oak prefers the heavier soils of southern England and the Midlands, though it tolerates most deep soils other than peat.

Do you have an oak in your garden or field behind you in the hedgerow?
If you do, let the Tree Warden know as we are trying to build up a picture of Ulting and Langford's veteran and baby trees. 
Do you have a sapling you don't want?
Give the Tree Warden a ring for collection.
Whatever you do - enjoy your trees and the wildife they support.


  1. I am part of a group creating a ceramic timeline of the Quercus robur. Your article states that the tree supports 350 species of insect. Can you tell me which butterflies are attracted to it?

  2. Hi Natalie
    Here in the UK, where Quercus robur is native, the most important butterfly is the Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) - as you can see from its name!
    There are many sites with info on this species - I have listed a few on a later blog along with a couple of pictures.