Oak trees have to be one of England’s finest tree species. They have characterised the English countryside for thousands of years, and continue to play an important role in the biodiversity of our countryside. They can grow over 30 metres high, and can live to be over 1000 years old. Oak trees, of the Genus Quercus, are not restricted to the UK – there are over 500 species throughout the northern hemisphere, and over 80 in the UK alone.
Native English Oak Trees
There are two types of oak tree that are native to the UK, and they are the sessile oak (quercus petraea) and the English oak (quercus robur), but many more have been brought here over the centuaries such as the evergreen Holm Oak, the turkey oak, the pin oak, the French oak,t he Cork oak and the Lucombe oak (being a Turkey oak hybrid raised by William Lucombe in Exeter around 1762.
Traditionally every part of the oak has been used in some way or another, most notably the tough, hard wearing timber for building and furniture. It has always been prized for it’s nice grain and it’s toughness, and also has high amounts of tannins which keep insects and rot at bay. Nowadays it is still used for furniture, but to a lesser extent because of the availability of fast growing softwoods such as pine. The oak tree takes a lot longer to mature, and so sustainable harvest of oak trees must happen over a much greater time period. With this in mind, there is more of a focus on preserving our much reduced oak forests, but there are a few examples of sustainable oak forestry. Mostly, we see this in France, where the oak tree is still the most common tree.
Oak timber production
France produces a lot of the worlds oak timber, and an ever increasing percentage of this oak is coming from sustainable managed forests who rotate on a 200 year life cycle!
Here at Sid Valley Tree Surgery, we often get to work on ancient oak trees. For the most part this involves removing dead wood and crown raising, particularly when located near buildings or footpaths. This is where our experience really helps because we can reduce the stress on a tree and extend the life, whilst making it safer for those around it. Knowing what to take off and where can help to preserve the tree safely for many years to come.