Oak, English

[[Category:Top30]]
[[Category:Deciduous Trees]]
[[Category:Fagaceae]]
[[Category:Quercus]]

[[File:20170216_123444(0)C.jpg|right|200px]]

”’Scientific Name”’: Quercus robur

””Family”’: ”Fagaceae”

”’Also known as”’: Common Oak, Pedunculate Oak, European Oak

”’Habitat”’: It is native to most of Europe west of the Caucasus. The tree is widely cultivated in temperate regions and has escaped into the wild in scattered parts of China and North America. Woodlands and hedgerows. Dominant large tree of the UK. ”Q. robur” is very tolerant to soil conditions and the continental climate but it prefers fertile and well-watered soils. Mature trees tolerate flooding.

”’Description”’: It is a large deciduous tree, with circumference of grand oaks from 4 m to exceptional 12 m. The Majesty Oak with a circumference of 12.2 m is the thickest tree in Great Britain. In England, the English oak has assumed the status of a national emblem. As common oaks mature they form a broad and spreading crown with sturdy branches beneath. Their open canopy enables light to penetrate through to the woodland floor, allowing bluebells and primroses to grow below. Oak tree growth is particularly rapid in youth but gradually slows at around 120 years. Oaks even shorten with age in order to extend their lifespan. Coppicing has extended tree lives to over 1000 years.

”’Identifying Features”’:
* ”’Bark”’ – Becomes progressively fissured and wholly grey in more mature trees with short nobbly ridges.
* ”’Twigs”’ – Silvery and hairless with small lenticels.
* ”’Buds”’ – Orange-brown, egg-shaped buds with clusters at shoot tips.
* ”’Leaves”’ – around 10cm long with 4-5 deep lobes with smooth edges. Leaf-burst occurs mid-May and the leaves have almost no stem and grow in bunches. Each bud has more than 3 scales.
* ”’Flowers”’ – Are long yellow hanging catkins which distribute pollen into the air.
* ”’Fruits”’ – Its fruit, commonly known as acorns, are 2–2.5cm long, borne on lengthy stalks and held tightly by cupules (the cup-shaped base of the acorn). As it ripens, the green acorn takes on a more autumnal, browner colour, loosens from the cupule and falls to the canopy below.

==Pictures throughout the year==

File:20170216_123444(0)C.jpg|Oak buds in winter
File:20170131_131648C.jpg|Oak leaves in winter
File:20170413_192320C.jpg|English Oak in flower
File:20170413_192233C.jpg|English Oak flowers

==Uses==

===Food===
Seed – cooked. Nourishing but indigestible. Chopped and roasted, the seed is used as an almond substitute. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in stews etc or mixed with cereals for making bread. The seed contains bitter tannins, these can be leached out by thoroughly washing the seed in running water though many minerals will also be lost. Either the whole seed can be used or the seed can be dried and ground it into a powder. It can take several days or even weeks to properly leach whole seeds, one method was to wrap them in a cloth bag and place them in a stream. Leaching the powder is quicker. A simple taste test can tell when the tannin has been leached. The traditional method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy ground overwinter. The germinating seed was dug up in the spring when it would have lost most of its astringency. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An edible gum is obtained from the bark.

===Medicine===
The oak tree has a long history of medicinal use. It is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, decongestant, haemostatic and tonic. The bark is the part of the plant that is most commonly used, though other parts such as the galls, seeds and seed cups are also sometimes used. A decoction of the bark is useful in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea, dysentery, intermittent fevers, haemorrhages etc. Externally, it is used to bathe wounds, skin eruptions, sweaty feet, piles etc. It is also used as a vaginal douche for genital inflammations and discharge, and also as a wash for throat and mouth infections. The bark is harvested from branches 5 – 12 years old, and is dried for later use. Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery etc. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies. A homeopathic remedy is made from the bark. It is used in the treatment of disorders of the spleen and gall bladder. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Quercus robur Pedunculate Oak for coughs/bronchitis, diarrhoea, inflammation of mouth and pharynx, inflammation of the skin

===Other===
Oak forests provide a habitat rich in biodiversity; they support more life forms than any other native trees. They host hundreds of species of insect, supplying many British birds with an important food source. In autumn mammals such as badgers and deer take advantage of the falling acorns.

Flower and leaf buds of English oak and sessile oak are the foodplants of the caterpillars of purple hairstreak butterflies.

The soft leaves of English oaks breakdown with ease in autumn and form a rich leaf mould beneath the tree, supporting invertebrates, such as the stag beetle, and numerous fungi, like the oakbug milkcap. Holes and crevices in the tree bark are perfect nesting spots for the pied flycatcher or marsh tit. Several British bat species may also roost in old woodpecker holes or under loose bark, as well as feeding on the rich supply of insects in the tree canopy.

”’Mythology and symbolism”’
The oak is held in high regard across most cultures in Europe. The oak was sacred to many gods including Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman) and Dagda (Celtic). Each of these gods ruled over thunder and lightning, and oak trees are prone to lightning strikes as they are often the tallest living feature in the landscape.

Druids frequently practised and worshipped their rituals in oak groves and cherished the mistletoe that frequents oak tree branches. Royalty has had a long association with oak trees too; ancient kings adorned themselves with crowns of oak leaves, King Charles II hid from his pursuers in an oak tree at Boscobel House and Roman Emperors were presented with crowns of oak leaves during victory parades.

In England the oak has for centuries been a national symbol of strength and survival. It has played an important part in our culture – couples were wed under ancient oaks in Oliver Cromwell’s time, the festive Yule Log was traditionally cut from oak, it features on the 1987 pound coin and is the inspiration for the emblem of many environmentally focused organisations, including the Woodland Trust.

”’How we use oak”’
Oaks produce one of the hardest and most durable timbers on the planet, even its Latin name, ”Quercus robur”, means strength. However, it takes up to 150 years before an oak is ready to use in construction. It has been a prized hardwood timber for thousands of years, was the primary ship building material until the mid-19th century and remains a popular wood for architectural beams. Modern uses of English oak include flooring, wine barrels and firewood.

Traditionally the leaves, bark and acorns were believed to heal many medical ailments including diarrhoea, inflammation and kidney stones.

Historically humans also collected acorns and processed them into flour for bread making. These culinary techniques have mostly died out following the domestication of wheat production 10,000 years ago, leaving the harvest for wild birds and mammals.

Tannin found in the bark has been used to tan leather since at least Roman times.

Toxicity: Tannic acid in the leaves is poisonous to horses if consumed in excess, damaging the kidneys. Acorns are poisonous to horses and cattle, though swine can consume them safely in moderation.

==Gav Notes==

Most acorns will never get the chance to germinate, they are rich food source, eaten by many wild creatures including jays, mice and squirrels. Acorns need to germinate and root quickly to prevent drying out or becoming victims of the harvest. Following successful germination, a new sapling will appear the following spring.

===Known hazards===
Possible digestive complaints. May delay absorption of alkaloids and other alkaline drugs.

===Harvesting===
The acorns usually ripen from September to October and can be picked up from the floor, or from the branches.

===Potential lookalikes===
Other members of the Oak family, such as [http://foundfood.com/wiki/index.php?title=Oak,_Sessile Sessile Oak], but they all have the same uses.

”’Sources”’:
*Tree & Plant ID Course from Foundation Bushcraft – http://identificationmasterclass.com/
*Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak
*Woodland Trust – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/english-oak/

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