Also called ‘Holly Oak’ or ‘Evergreen Oak’, this oak is a dense evergreen tree with tough foliage which grows up to 20m (66ft) tall. The crown is dense, dark and broadly domed, often on a short trunk with several ascending large branches. The bark is dark grey with shallow fissures, and in time is cracked into fine, square plates. New leaves unfold silvery white in June, but soon turn a dark glossy green with whitish-grey felt-like undersides. In younger trees the leaves are broad and elliptical, and are spiny like those of Holly (Ilex aquifolium), perhaps to prevent animal grazing. In older trees the leaves become longer, lance-like and without spines. Trees of an intermediate age possess both leaf types. The male flowers appear in the spring, and turn from green to a golden-yellow. The female flowers are tiny green clusters. Mature acorns are on very short stems, and are held in a scaly, felt-like cup. They are much smaller compared to the acorns of the Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur).
Planted mainly in milder climes and a shelter-belt tree in coastal areas for its ability to cope well with sea spray, but it is also found in cemeteries, large Victorian gardens, parks and sea-fronts, and has naturalised occasionally. A native tree of the Mediterranean region, and originally part of the ancient evergreen forests once extensive there, the Holm Oak has been planted in Britain for over 400 years, and is the most common of our evergreen oaks.
Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), Bournemouth seafront, Dorset, England. August 2012 and 2013.