The oak tree holds a special place in all our hearts. It’s the most common species of tree in England, and because of the height, scale, and age that it grows to, it has always been considered a symbol of endurance in our history. This is the story of the mighty oak, and how having one in your garden could well make you a very lucky homeowner.
The king of trees
The Romans and Greeks associated the oak with their gods, and Norse mythology claimed the tree was sacred to Thor, the thunder god, not surprising as the oak has a reputation for being the most lightning struck tree in the forest (mainly because it’s often the tallest tree in the forest), and for not only surviving this, but thriving afterwards.
The ancient Celts considered the oak to be a symbol of strength and wisdom and over the centuries, religious ritual and king’s crowns have been connected to this majestic tree. Today in England we simply love this tree for the shade it offers us on a warm summer’s day, the strength of its thick branches for tree houses and home-made swings, and for the steadfast permanence of its presence throughout our lives as each oak can live for more than 200 years.
We see these trees a lot as North London tree surgeons. If you have a mature oak in your garden then you're truly lucky.
Supporter of biodiversity in your garden
The oak is a deciduous tree, which means it loses its leaves in the autumn and regrows them in the spring. It has soft leaves that break down easily once they’ve fallen to the ground and this and the mould it creates can form the perfect environment for many insects. These insects in turn are a delicacy for your garden birds. So oak trees can support a rich biodiversity in any garden, something we should all be encouraging.
Threats your oak tree may face
We started this article saying that the oak is England’s most common tree but it may not always be so, as we have seen with the decline of the elm. The elm tree used to be a far more common sight in Britain until Dutch elm disease ravaged the population, killing millions of trees in a relatively short space of time. Therefore we feel a duty to protect our much-loved oaks from a similar fate.
Today the greatest threats to your oak trees are the oak processionally moth, acute oak decline (AOD) and chronic oak decline (COD).
The moth is a foreign pest now found in London and the Home Counties and which damages leaves on oak trees. Not a massive issue on its own, but this damage can leave the tree more susceptible to diseases.
AOD and COD are the definitions given to the visible symptoms that several diseases cause oak trees, such as canopy thinning, branch dieback and weeping/bleeding lesions on the trunk. This has been associated with the decline in oak populations across the South of England.
If you notice any of these symptoms, tell your friendly neighbourhood arborist or tree surgeon as there are disease management service they will immediately put in place for you in order to save your tree.
A few things you may not know about your oak tree
A common sight at the edge of farmers’ fields and in gardens across the land they may be, but here are a few things you may not know about the oak – one of the most influential trees in our country’s history:
- Magna Carta and More. The indelible ink created by crushing of oak galls, which are the growths a certain type of wasp creates for its larvae to grow in, is what over 1,400 years of Western history has been documented in and is the reason why it survives to this day.
- Food and Drink. Acorns have historically been crushed into a flour for bread making. They were also used as a substitute for coffee when supplies were scarce.
- Maritime Might. Wood from oak trees helped to build the British navy to become the mightiest in the world in the 1700s and 1800s.
- Take Two Before Bed. In the past, people believed that the oak trees, bark, leaves and fruit had healing power for all manner of ailments.
To find out more about your oak trees, how to best look after them, or for help with tree maintenance, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice.