English / Pedunculate Oak
Two native oaks share the British countryside. The English oak (Quercus robur) prefers lowland meadows and woodlands whilst Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) is more at home in stony upland places. Mixed woods of the two species occur, intermediate forms are common, but true hybrids between them are unusual.
develop into huge spreading trees reaching 40 metres high and producing stems up
to 12.5m in girth. In Britain they can live for over 1,000 years.The deciduous
lobed oblong leaves are familiar to most people. They are frequently represented
in art, and feature on many logos and brand identities.
In summer a new flush of reddish-brown 'lammas' foliage appears replacing earlier leaves eaten by insects.
Acorns in cups are a well known feature of an oak tree. The Anglo-Saxon name for oak was aik, so the seed was known as aik-com. English oaks bear them on stalks, sessile acorns are stalkless. In a good year a mature tree may produce around 50,000 acorns.
Saplings have smooth lustrous brown bark with paler patches & cross bands. Years later this becomes hard, rugged and deeply fissured.
Following the last Ice Age, oak trees migrated to Britain naturally from mainland Europe by seeding across the land bridge that is now the English Channel.
Strong durable oak timber was traditionally used for houses, ships and furniture. Today the best wood is still used for quality cabinet making, veneers and barrel staves. Rougher material is used for fencing, roof beams and specialist building work.
Oak wood is golden brown with prominent paler flecks (medullary rays) maturing to deep brown when used inside, or light silvery grey out of doors. Freshly cut material has a distinctive pleasant smell.
Besides timber, oak woods once provided a harvest of bark for the leather tanning industry, and in good acorn seasons (mast years)animals were grazed under the trees to fatten them up before winter.