Monday 18 April 2011

O is for Oak – that’s what O is for ...

Green Oak Moth

The teeming world of the Oak – a veritable haven for wildlife – just one tree which can live for up to 250 years ... think how much can happen in that time.

One tiny acorn from its first sprouting can survive hundreds of attacks coming at it in all directions over the years as it reaches skywards.  Organisms of all sorts – weevils, mildew fungus, gall wasps, green oak-roller moth and its silk-threaded spinning caterpillar, to name a few.

Silk button gall on pedunculate oak
As it matures this strong Oak may be invaded by mistletoe and ivy, and in wetter districts by lichens, mosses, algae and ferns ... giving the Oak a ghoulish cladding.

Its fruits, the acorns, provide both a home and a food supply for the acorn weevil, the squirrel and others below.  Eventually fungi will invade the oak causing its slow demise.

The many insects living on the Oak tree attract many birds.  Woodpeckers excavate nesting holes in the decaying stems, search for the grubs of wood boring beetles or other insects.  Squirrels build their nests high in the crown ... as they can be predatory ... other birds build their nests elsewhere.

Primrose – scented flowers bloom
in Spring, before the oak’s Summer
leaf canopy cuts off the light.

Beneath the light canopy a wide range of plants flourish. Grasses, bracken and brambles may completely cover more open Oak wood.  These attract grazing and browsing animals – from field voles, shrews and rabbits to deer.

Tawny owls nest in the trunks of rotting oaks, while foxes scrub around below ... both taking advantage of the wildlife population in and around the tree itself.

Tawny Owl

Before the Oak can fully spread its wings letting nature take its course, man over the centuries often intervenes .... this magnificent traditional tree has long been known to provide lasting building timber.

We were invaded by Oak sailing ships from across the North Sea, and we now appreciate Oak in many guises – still used in ships, as floor boards, church pews, staircases and panelling in mansions and public buildings.  Beer barrels and wine casks are made of it because oak is impervious to alcohol.  Its wood is still much appreciated and valued today.

An old English oak in Baginton,
Warwickshire, England
The mighty Oak deserves its accolades ... it has lived on through the centuries adapting to our man made world ... colonising cleared woodland, neglected commons and pastures, hedgerows and waysides.

The sturdy seedling tolerates a wide range of soils and competes vigorously to survive, while it has become so well-adjusted to British soils and climate that it can support over 200 organisms during its 250 year lifetime.

A true British great ...

This is Oak - that is what O is for ..    

Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories



Fabulous Hilary, I do so like the wildlife, all you have written is what I enjoy in the gardens, The New Forset, country lanes.yet I'm being pennilised for feeding the birds in the garden by the owner of my apartment, because the guesthouse next door has a huge tree with squirrels......which come into our garden. Why can't people live and let live,?????

Anonymous said...

Yes a true British great! Lovely wealth of information as always. Those organisism look like spaghetti hoops! :O)

MunirGhiasuddin said...

So much information on plants trees and nature in general. This is a great blog. We do not know much about Oak in India, but when my children went to a school name "Oak Grove" here in N.Y I started taking interest in Oak trees. Today I learned a lot.
Thanks for reading my blog. I am a follower of yours now:)

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

I completely forgot that the A to Z challenge was happening this month. I've been so busy with my Script Frenzy challenge that I haven't visited in a while. Sorry.

I remember back in Scouts that we learned about different trees by the shape of their leaves. Haven't thought about that in a long time.

Have a good one!

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Oh... a lot of information about the Oak tree, didn't know all that!

Thanks Hilary for enlightening us with information about Nature and History. You are a gem!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Madeleine .. when I read about it - the realisation came to me about how much the oak offered. I remember our first flush of snowdrops in the very early spring were under the oak tree - I guess it provided shelter too.

I loved those silk-button galls - such a wonderful name .. couldn't but post a picture. Fortunately I don't do spaghetti hoops too often!!!

@ Munir - lovely seeing you again. Suddenly things slot into place don't they .. like your Oak Grove name .. do you know what a Grove is ... it's a group of trees!

There are oaks up in the Himalayas - so I guess they are known further north in India.

Delighted you learnt a lot - the leaves, acorns etc .. I'm sure you see on the streets?

Great that you've followed me - and we'll be connecting quite often.

@ Chase .. no worries .. life toddles on .. I hope your Script Frenzy is nearing its completion .. sounds an interesting time.

26 posts is ok .. 1200 members - slightly different = daunting. I have lots of catching up to do ..

I learnt so much as a kid, but not having them .. I sort of never did my revision!! Thanks for calling in though ..

@ Doris - thanks so much for the Kreativ Award - appreciate that - I enjoyed writing this .. realising that each piece of nature has its own interlinking world.

Delighted you enjoyed the post.

Cheers everyone - looks like we're in for an early summer here this week - it's 10 degree C higher than normal. (Average is 13 deg C .. we're now going towards early - mid twenties .. cold wind here from the English Channel - sometimes in heat waves we're grateful!).

and a weather interlude!! Byeeee Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Super post, Hilary! Those silk buttons kind of freaked me out...ick! I forgot about all the lovely primroses in the English countryside.

Laura Eno said...

Oaks are gorgeous trees. They also make me sneeze. :(

Talli Roland said...

I love oak trees and I love owls! Win all around.

Happy Monday, Hilary! I hope you had a good weekend.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sharon .. thank you! Silk buttons are all part of life's rich tapestry!! Thought I'd put their picture first!!

Primroses and bluebells flourish under the oak's furled canopy .. the countryside is beautiful at the moment ..

@ Laura - they are magnificent trees - but sorry about the sneezing .. "atisho atisho and they all fell down" - but that was the plague .. and you haven't got that - have you!

@ Talli .. ah Oaks and Owls .. I made the right choice .. I spent an evening with friends watching the owls come and go from an oak tree - magical time.

You too - beautiful weather .. enjoy the week .. Hilary

TALON said...

I love trees and the oaks are one of the most stately and wise of them all.

This was a beautiful tribute, Hilary.

Short Poems said...

Excellent Hilary, I do so like the wildlife. Oaks are beautiful trees!

Enjoy the week
Marinela x

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

The owl is quite noble looking. We do have oak trees in Canada, but I don't believe they're anywhere near us. Too cold. I love trees, so I appreciate their majesty no matter where they are.

Karen Lange said...

Wonderful info! Love the pictures, too. Thanks, Hilary, for educating me today. I should hire you to do my research. lol
Have a great week,

Maria Papadopoulou said...

Such amazing info! Congrats on all your research! And the photos are great!

Susan Scheid said...

Ah, the oak. I've never lived where there are so many oak trees as where I live now--our back yard is full of them (hence our name, "Raining Acorns"). Today we were walking in a local conservancy, past a huge old white oak that has now fallen--its explanatory sign still attached. We remarked to one another that, even in this state, it is teeming with life!

Dot said...

We have lots of oaks here. I like them!

Susan Oloier said...

We have oaks on our property, but they are nothing of the grand type you describe and that are pictured in this post. Ours are scrawny and anorexic-looking. They only have leaves for a few months of the year. Otherwise, they look dead. I want the English oak on my property instead.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Talon .. you are so right - they totally stand on their own .. yet are so stately and wise .. they protect their world. Something we should do ..

Delighted you enjoyed it so much - many thanks ..

@ Marinela .. lovely to see you .. glad you enjoyed the wildlife story .. thank you - I will!

@ Joylene .. ah! the owl! .. looks young to me .. but was a good pic c/o Wikipedia. You're probably like India .. the Oaks will grow in appropriate surroundings .. not too cold ... but they set the scene in many a story ...

@ Karen .. great! You are a star .. saying that - I just do what I do .. as simply as I can! But delighted at the thought ...?!

@ Maria .. welcome .. so pleased you enjoyed your visit ..

Delighted to see everyone - many thanks for coming by and commenting - cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan .. welcome - how wonderful to see you here and over at 'E' for Eyebright .. now I can see why Raining Acorns is so appropriate.

Great minds think alike .. 'teeming' .. so true .. absolutely teeming!

Lucky you to have a conservancy nearby with things labelled .. so everyone can learn.

@ Dot .. how wonderful .. they are amazing trees that's for sure ..

Thanks - good to see you both .. happy week .. Hilary

Arlee Bird said...

The mighty oak is a worthy topic for the letter 'O'. You've provided us with more fascinating information about this stately and useful tree.

Tossing It Out
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

Empty Nest Insider said...

Very informative story with amazing pictures. Interesting combination with oaks and owls!

K.C. Woolf said...

Oaks are beautiful trees. Thank you for the owl picture as well.

(I almost did: O for Owls, but changed my mind at the last minute ;-) )

Southpaw said...

Oak trees are beautiful. When I lived in California, they were all over. There is something a little mysterious about them.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan .. sorry that you've scrawny ones! This oak looks as though it's well colonised and on common land .. though in the woods it'd have ivy etc all over it too.

Me thinks you could buy yourself a proper oak?! but they have quite a big root and canopy spread .. so as long as you have room .. have an Easter treat?! My only suggestion .. or see if Harry Potter's around to magic you one!!!

@ Arlee .. lovely seeing you here and appreciating my 'O' topic - thanks.

@ Julie .. thanks .. glad I put the owl in .. and the other pictures allow me to show more unusual things, which we so easily forget about.

@ KC .. they are as you say .. and I associate the oaks in woodland or standing in fields with owls.

I'm behind .. but I'll get across to everyone's 'O's soon .. and see what you chose!

@ Holly - they've got lots of oaks in California .. KC mentioned that John Muir is your Naturalist and he planted oak trees .. and is remembered for his forests and woods today.

There's so much going on all trees - they're little worlds to themselves .. supporting so much wildlife ..

Thanks everyone .. lovely seeing you .. really appreciate your visits .. Hilary

J.D. Meier said...

> giving the Oak a ghoulish cladding
That's quite the visual!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. thanks - I was quite pleased with that description!! So appreciate you picked it up ..

Cheers Hilary