Tuesday 10 November 2009

ABC Wednesday Round 5 - Q is for Quercus

A wise old owl lived in an oak

The more he saw the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard.

Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

The oak is traditionally considered to be the national tree of England, long associated with ship-building. Its acorns or 'mast' provided food for pigs and the tannin in its bark was used in the production of leather.

Britain has two native oaks, the English or Pedunculate (Quercus robur)and the Sessile or Durmast (Quercus petraea). The English oak is more rugged than the Sessile though there has been a certain amount of interbreeding between them. The English oak has short-stemmed leaves and long-stemmed acorn cups and the Sessile has long-stemmed leaves and stalkless acorn cups. The acorns of both trees are green like their cups but turn brown by autumn.

The Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)is Britain's only evergreen oak and was introduced from the Mediterranean in the 16th century. The leaves are long with no lobes and the acorns are short with at least half contained in a downy cup. The acorns are green at first and take two years to ripen.
The Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) has deeply lobed leaves, mossy-cupped acorns and rough dark grey bark. It was introduced in 1753, probably from the Balkans.
The Red Oak (Quercus rubra) has light grey bark and sharply angled lobes to the leaves with the veins of the lobes extending like bristles beyond the point. The acorns are short and broad in shallow cups. They ripen in the second year. The Red Oak is one of several North American red oaks planted in Britain for the richness and beauty of their autumn colour.
Oak woods provide food and shelter for a great variety of wildlife and their leaves rot into a soft mulch to support trees and shrubs such as Ash, Hazel and Holly. Their open canopies allow much light to filter through so that flowers like primroses, bluebells and violets thrive in the rich soil.
An oak tree supports at least 350 insect species, more than any other tree in Britain. Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Tree Creepers feed on the insects that live in the bark. Squirrels harvest the acorns and act as gardeners, burying their hoard in several different places. Wood pigeons, rooks and mice also feed on fallen acorns. Birds and small mammals in their turn attract Sparrowhawks, Buzzards and Owls.

I couldn't tell you which oaks are these in my photographs - I think they are English oaks though the first one looks more like a Sessile oak . . . too late and too dark now to go into the garden and carry out an identification!
Heart of Oak is the official march of the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. In this clip it is played by the Band of the Royal Marines. In case you feel like singing along, the words (written by the acclaimed 18th century English actor David Garrick) of the first verse and chorus are below! The 'wonderful year' of the verse is 1759-1760 during which the British were victorious at the Battle of Lagos, the Battle of Quebec City,the Battle of Quiberon Bay and the Battle of Wandiwash in India.
Come, cheer up, my lads, 'tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honour we call you, as freemen not slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?
Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men,
We always are ready; Steady, boys, steady!
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again.

Thanks are due to Mrs Nesbitt for hosting this meme. To see other 'Qs' please click here.


  1. Interesting post and great photos of lovely trees -- whatever their name!

    Have a great day!


  2. not as many oaks or should i say querci around as there once was - a great post.

  3. Interesting info and I enjoyed your poem. Great Q.

  4. My favourite trees. I have a small one in my garden which a friend grew from an acorn, it's only about 3 ft tall but I can imagine what it will be like in years to come. I love the owl poem.

  5. Hello,
    I don't have any Queries about oaks after reading your informative post.
    I live in an area where there Oaks are predominant, but not as many types as you discussed here. There are predominantly red and white oaks where I live. I adore nature; this was a pleasure to read.

  6. Beautiful photos and fascinating information. I especially loved the 'owl' starter.

  7. Awesome Green Shots!

    I have an invitation for you to join the World Photo Bloggers

  8. Blogging certainly broadens your mind, I had no idea there were so many oaks!

    Most of our local forests are pine but there is one particular broadleaf wood nearby. It makes a nice change and has been beautiful the last few weeks.

  9. Good choice!

    We have Turkey oak at a nature reserve nearby, and I thought it was a rare native until now. If it was introduced so long ago, I guess we can adopt it!

  10. This entry was so interesting Janice, and how wonderful to see the words to Hearts Of Oak! I closed my eyes and could almost hear dear Grandad Cooke singing it again. He had such a powerful voice. Thanks for the memories xx

  11. Thank you Sylvia. Your grandfather sang in Chichester Cathedral choir - Barry and Trevor used to sing with him when they went to stay.

  12. That is a fascinating look at the world of oaks. I think they are my favourite tree though I didn't know much about them. I love the oak leaf shape (the lobed ones) and acorns are like something from fairy tales. There is an amazing Holm Oak in Grenwich park. I love the oak tree silhouette.
    Thanks for all your lovely comments! Lily is completely better now thanks-back to her normal moany self!(She has a long and extended mioaw which is her moany voice-reserved for nagging Andy to feed her when he does not know she just had food!) She has the most mioaws of any cat I have ever had-and seems to invent new ones quite often, so it was sad for her to lose her voice! Luckily she responded to the second lot of antibiotics.

  13. Great post, and wonderful trees that will outlive us all. Our oaks are mostly sessile. Quite jealous of that Red Oak, would be wonderful to see at this time of the year.

  14. Sarah - glad to know that Lily is back in full voice. Don't you miss it when it's absent??
    Joy - my goodness, if oaks could only record what they have seen what wonderful records we would have. My favourite trees of all, I think, though I love them all - the lungs of the earth!

  15. And dont forget the mushrooms that grow at their base.

  16. Really interesting and informative!

  17. At this time of year our forests are full of fungi collectors - well, maybe not FULL but there are a number of them. Why do they always look so shifty?
    Thank you Serendipity :0)


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