The oak tree is a very British symbol – it has been used on the “tails” side of pound coins, in a political party logo and by The National Trust as part of their branding.
The oak tree belongs to the genus Quercus, of which there are around 800 different species all over the world, with over 600 thriving across the Northern hemisphere, some of which can live for 1000 years or more. The leaves are easily identifiable, lobed structures and the fruits are known as acorns – that traditional hibernation hoard for squirrels.
The wood from an oak tree is versatile with uses including for furniture building as well as structural and architectural joinery and in the past it has been used for ship building and to produce ink and medicines. In fact, Newton and Mozart used Oak-based inks for their works which was also used to the Magna Carta. It is a strong, durable, dense and water resistant wood, which should be sourced from a reputable dealer, as this will ensure minimal environmental impact. Acorns have long been a staple food for humans as well as animals, (they have been used to make bread), and alcohol has been produced from the sprouting shoots of acorns. A surprising fact is that one single oak tree can produce up to 10 million acorns over the course of its lifetime, but only 1 in 10,000 will grow into an oak tree.
The habitat provided by oak forests supports more species of wildlife than any other native UK tree, with mammals feeding the acorns, bats roosting in old woodpecker holes, birds nesting in the branches and a rich variety of invertebrates living in the dead leaf litter that gathers on the ground under the vast canopies.
Oak trees have a nostalgic image – imagine any traditional countryside scene and it is likely that there will be an oak tree there, somewhere. They have played a part in British history (see the famous trees post from Sunday) and symbolise strength, wisdom and new beginnings.
As we draw to the end of a the difficult year that has been 2020, it might be a good idea to consider what “acorns” you might like to plant in 2021, which you would like to see sprouting and flourishing into mighty oak trees in the future.
Until next time, keep calm and apply some Science!