Tuesday 8 November 2011

ABC Wednesday Q is for Quercus and Quince

There was a flowering Quince (Chaenomeles) already in the garden when we bought this house, more than thirty years ago. It has survived rather than thrived, usually producing a few red flowers and three or four yellow fruits. I have never attempted to do anything with them since I don’t think it’s worth the effort to produce probably less than one egg cupful of quince jelly. The fruits are impossibly bitter, difficult to peel and take a long time to cook but aficionados declare them a rare treat. They can also be pickled.
View of oaks from our garden
There is an abundance of Quercus in this area. They are mostly English oaks (Quercus robur or Quercus pedunculata) producing acorns which nestle in cups at the ends of long stems. The pedunculate oak is a long-lived tree native to most of Europe. It commonly measures its life in centuries, the oldest two in UK, in the New Forest of Hampshire and in Lincolnshire, being around 1000 years old.
Fresh leaves in April
Oak supports more than 400 species of insects, more than any other British plant and is an important food source, in the form or acorns, for many small mammals and birds. 
Jays (Garrulus glandarius) were the principal propagators of this oak before the development of commercial planting. It is a hardwood tree grown for its long-lasting heartwood which is much in demand for interiors and furniture.
We often see squirrels racing round the trunks or leaping from branch to branch
The English oak is a national emblem, its importance originating in the oak tree in which the future Charles II hid during the English Civil War. From that time it was known as the Royal Oak. May 29th is Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day and was so named by Act of Parliament more than 350 years ago. You can read more about it here.
Two of our oaks being cut down on a very cold January day
‘The Royal Oak’ is one of the most popular names for English public houses and eight Royal Navy warships have been commissioned with the name Royal Oak. In Tudor times oak was the main construction material for warships and the Royal Navy’s official quick march is ‘Heart of Oak.’

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

The oak is the commonest woodland tree in England but must grow for 70 to 80 years before it produces its first acorns.

Click here for more Qs


  1. There is no statelier tree than an oak, nothing comes anywhere near it.

  2. All of which makes it extra worrying when sudden oak death is talked about. Your post would have been great as one of the sections of my Forest School course work about the use of trees in history in a certain area-I talked a lot about ship building!

  3. That's a gorgeous shot of the jay.

  4. I have made quince jelly and it is very good, but I won't likely make it ever again. We have two small oak trees my husband started from acorns about 20 years ago. Hope I get to see them get much taller. :)) We had acorns on one for the first time this year and the squirrels do LOVE them! I guess our variety of oak is different from yours.

  5. No wonder these trees are so sturdy - having to be so patient before producing any acorns.

  6. Great post Janice, lovely videos too. I enjoyed all your photographs and loved the little Jay. A friend of mine just returned from the UK and bought me back a hook on British Birds. I am really enjoying it.

  7. Excellent post. You can't beat an oak tree and I've been in many a Royal Oak.

  8. I've heard this music before (instrumental only) and had no idea what it was called, Janice. Of course, when I was young, the tie between Britain and Canada was much stronger than it is today.
    I had no idea oaks took so long to produce acorns. I grew up with pear, peach, apricot, apple and cherry trees, so I somehow imagined "great oaks from little acorns grow" referred to a similar timeframe. Who knew?
    I'm not sure I'd recognize a quince—okay, Wikipedia to the rescue. Like a small pear, and I don't think I've ever tasted quince jelly, although I've certainly heard and/or read about it. Probably comes of too many English novels.
    A very interesting (to me, anyway) post for the letter Q.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  9. Loved both videos - childhood memories! By the way, your header is very interesting!

  10. horticulture, history AND music. QUITE the post!

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  11. I just loved this post. The information, the photos and video. A lot to savor!

  12. Freida and I walk pass an oak tree every day - it's acorns are on the pavement waiting to greet us - think we should plant one?

    A great post - as ever.
    Thanks so much
    Denise ABC Team

  13. Interesting. I never heard the term "quercus" before..though, using your description, "oak" is a kind of "quercus," which (of course) I am familiar with. A worthy write.

  14. Just imagine, a 1000 years old, and growing for 80 years before producing acorns. What marvelous trees.

  15. Fascinating history! I used to live in a condo building named "Royal Oaks." I've never had quince but would be willing to try it. We don't seem to have it here.

    abcw team

  16. And of course pigs love acorns and therefore oak trees too ;-)

  17. The old oak tree has been one of my most favorite trees!! You have given much details which made it an interesting read!! Love the picture of the Jay, looks like it is on a mission!!

  18. LOL - I wondered if someone would do a post about quince! I've sometimes seen the fruit in stores and been tempted to try one, but having read your far-from-ringing endorsement, I think I'll give it a pass. (Still want to try a kumQuat someday, though!) ;-)

    I do love the stately oak and knew it was very special and meaningful in England's history, spirituality and folklore, but I learned far more details about it from you this morning. As soon as my husband wakes up I must turn up my speakers and give a listen to the videos you shared!

    I am a great lover of trees and am in awe of trees that are centuries old. I sure wish they could tell us their stories. Imagine all that they've witnessed in their long lifetimes!

  19. Gorgeous photos - I must admit I do like quince. I had some not so long ago, with some French toast. It was stewed, I do believe. Yum!

  20. Unfortunately I can't read it all, I am on holidays at the Red Sea and of course my time is limited, but I do a little diary on my Writer's Cramps blog. So far Internet connection is quiet good.

  21. Great information here, thanks for sharing.


  22. That's a beautiful Jay!

    Find out what Quiet is for my kids.

  23. I love oaks, there is always something of interest going on with them. Like your wintry photo, bet it was chilly up there.
    In answer to your question, I must admit I have never gone farther than thinking about it to make anything with the quince. Pickled was a new one on me, interesting. I believe you have to wait for the frost to arrive before picking, apparently it destroys the bitterness.

  24. That's a great Jay photo - I know how quick they are and not easy to catch in such a good pose.

  25. A wonderful post, Jabblog. Thank you!

  26. So glad you posted the song "Hearts of Oak". I was already singing it in my head before I got to that part of your post.

  27. What a rousing song!
    Those oaks are beautiful. I can see the creatures enjoy the benefits of the mighty oak.

  28. What a stately tree the oak is!

  29. Wow! That is a very beautiful Jay. Is it related to the American Blue Jay? This is so much prettier.


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