Turkey Oak

Quercus cerris

Turkey Oak Quercus cerris

A fast growing deciduos tree, this oak grows up to 30m (98ft) tall, and is a widely spreading specimen with long main branches rising from a relatively stout trunk. The bark is grey with fine, deep vertical fissures. The leaves are usually long and narrow, but sometimes long and ovate. The lobes are more pointed than Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), and they are a darker green and shiny, but paler and woolly on the underside. The stalks are hairy and are about 2cm long. In the autumn the leaves turn a rich orange brown. The male flowers are pendulous catkins of crimson flowers. The acorns have no stalks, and they are long, the cups deep and mossy covered in narrow, greyish scales. The acorns ripen in the second year.

Turkey Oak Quercus cerris leaves

Mainly grown in parks and gardens, or alongside roads, but it is also found naturalised in woodland. It is fairly tolerant of different soil types, and is also quite resistant to atmospheric pollution. A native of southern Europe, the Turkey Oak was introduced and raised by J Luccomb, an Exeter nurseryman, in 1735. Today it is fairly common and widespread.

Turkey Oak Quercus cerris leaf

Turkey Oak Quercus cerris acorn

Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris), Bournemouth park, Dorset and Warley Woods, Staffordshire, England. August and September 2013.

Red Oak

Quercus rubra

Red Oak Quercus rubra autumn leaf

A broadly domed deciduous tree which can grow up to 35m (115ft) tall. It has straight branches radiating from a short trunk. The bark is smooth in younger trees and ridged when mature, and is silver-grey or brownish-grey in colour. The green deeply lobed leaves are large, ranging from 10-25 cm long, the stalks are around 2 cm long. The leaves turn a vibrant red in the autumn, although it can be of variable shading. Both sexes are on the same tree, the male catkins being yellow pendulous filaments, and the female flowers are inconspicuous ovals. The acorns are set in shallow cups.

Red Oak Quercus rubra autumn leaf fall

Planted as an ornamental in parks and gardens, and other urban settings for its autumn colours. Native to North America, introduced to Britain in 1724. Abundant in warmer climes, and naturalised occasionally.

Red Oak Quercus rubra leaves

Red Oak (Quercus rubra), Warley Woods, Staffordshire, England, November 2012 and June 2013.

Cork Oak

Quercus suber

Cork Oak Quercus suber trunk

The Cork Oak is a medium-sized evergreen tree with a rounded crown growing up to 20m (66ft) tall.  The bark is a pale-greyish brown, creamy or orangish with deep fissures when left to mature. It is thick and softly corky. The leaves are shallowly lobed and spiny tipped.  In maturity they are smooth and dark green on the upperside, but underneath they are pale grey and felt-like. The acorns are egg-shaped formed in scaly cups. It can live between 150-250 years.

Cork Oak Quercus suber leaves

Grown for ornament in parks and gardens. Introduced from the Mediterranean in the 1690s, and mainly grown for ornament throughout the British Isles. Very occasional.

In other countries such as Spain and Portugal, the bark of the Cork Oak is harvested by stripping it from the trunk to make corks for wine bottles. The cambium and other tissues of the tree are unharmed in this process and the bark regrows back and can be harvested again 9-12 years later. In the distant past it has also being used to make Roman sandals.

Cork Oak (Quercus suber), Warley Woods, Staffordshire, England. November 2012.

Holm Oak

Quercus ilex

Holm Oak Quercus ilex

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).

Holm Oak Quercus ilex leaves

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 trunk


Holm Oak Quercus ilex acorns

Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), Bournemouth seafront, Dorset, England. August 2012 and 2013.

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’ leaf

When I first came across this oak it was a complete mystery to what it was. At first I thought the leaves had been attacked by ravenous caterpillars, they were so oddly shaped. It took me quite some searching to try to get some identification on it.

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’ leaf

Height 25m. This is a fast-growing semi-evergreen hybrid between the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) and the Cork Oak (Quercus subur). The bark is deeply corky. The leaves are deeply and irregularly lobed, glossy green, often narrow and waist-like or thread-like. The different shapes of the leaves may be described as violin-shaped or spoon-shaped.  They remain on the tree throughout the winter months until spring when they lose them and then quickly regrow them. See also Lucombe Oak Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’. It can grow up to 25m (82ft) tall.

Quercus x hispanica ‘Diversifolia’ bark

Grown as ornament in parks and gardens. An old ‘Lucombeana’ species, and very rare.

Photographs taken November 2012, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Sessile Oak

Quercus petraea

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea)

Also called the ‘Durmast Oak’, it is a sturdy deciduous tree, with long radiating branches around a taller more upright trunk compared to the Pedunculate Oak. It can grow up to height of 40m (131ft). The leaves have five to six lobes, and are dark green and hairless above, with yellow stalks 1-2.5cm long. They lack the auricles (earlike projections), which the Pedunculate Oak have at the base of the leaf. The acorns are long and egg-shaped, and are stalkless, fixed directly to the twig in small clusters. This oak maybe confused with the Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur), which has acorns on stalks, and leaves with auricles and no stalks. The flowers appear as catkins in May and are seen through to mid-June. The Sessile Oak can live for up to and over 1,000 years.

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) leaf

Found in woodland and parkland, where it supports an abundance of wildlife. A native species which is common and widespread in western parts of Britain, especially Wales where it has been designated its national tree and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Welsh Oak’. It is called the ‘Cornish Oak’ in Cornwall, where it is also considered to be their national tree.

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) flowers

The Sessile Oak readily crosses with the Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) to form Quercus x rosacea (= Q. petraea x Q. robur)  Bechst. This large hybrid oak tree is first described in 1909 and can be difficult to identify because of its variable nature.

Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) acorns

It used to be heavily coppiced for fuel and its bark was used for tanning. Also used in the making of barrels and casks.

Photographs taken May and September 2013, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.

Lucombe Oak

Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

This was quite an unusual oak I came across, and which I had never seen before. It is a natural hybrid between the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) and the Cork Oak (Quercus subur). Growing up to a height of 35m, this is a tall semi-evergreen tree with heavy branches on a relatively short bole. The bark can be variable, greyish or light, furrowed, smooth or corky. The leaves are long, glossy green, toothed and 4-7cm long. They are grey and finely felt-like beneath. They remain on the tree until spring (unless conditions are very harsh in winter when they may fall) before falling and then regrowing quickly. The acorns appear in autumn in small mossy cups and are 2.5cm long. There are several variants including back crosses which may add to confusion during identification of specimens in the field. These oaks can live for up to 240 years or more.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

Grown as an ornamental in parks and gardens, especially in and around Exeter. William Lucombe, a nurseryman from Exeter, Devon, discovered this hybrid between the Turkey Oak and the Cork Oak quite by chance in 1762. He noticed how the leaves remained on the tree throughout autumn and winter, and decided to grow it himself. It was named after his nursery, and is still common around parks and gardens in Exeter, especially near the coast. It may also be found elsewhere in mature parks and gardens in the south of England, less so further north. One of the original saplings (perhaps the first to be planted outside of Devon) was planted in Kew Gardens in 1763, which was later moved and replanted in 1846, and is still alive today.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

Both the Turkey Oak (a deciduous tree) and the Cork Oak (an evergreen tree) grow wild in south-western Europe where they freely crossbreed naturally. These hybrids are called ‘Spanish Oaks’ (Quercus x hispanica), and with the exception of harsh weather conditions, they keep their leaves throughout autumn and winter, up until the new growth appears in spring.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

William Lucombe was so taken with this oak that he later felled the original specimen in 1785 to provide wood for his own coffin. He kept the boards under his bed until he died. When he did die at the ripe old age of 102, it was discovered the wood had decayed and timber was used from one of his early graft propagations to craft his coffin instead.

Lucombe Oak – Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’

Photographs of Lucombe Oak (Quercus x hispanica) ‘Lucombeana’, taken September 2013, Warley Woods, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon CoolPix P500.