The Trees of My Land #1 : the Mighty Oak [Quercus robur]

in nature •  3 months ago

We are blessed with over eleven thousand trees on our property.

Most were planted under a grant funded forestry project about 6 years ago, but around 500 were mature trees that were already here when we moved in.

In fact some of these trees were probably here when the house was built in 1799.

Almost certainly the oldest trees here will be the mighty oaks. We have around 80 mature oaks on the property mostly around the boundaries.

There is one giant oak that stands by itself in the field in front of our house. It is a fine specimen with a girth of around 14 feet and probably well over 200 years old.

Although it has shed a few boughs in the storms over recent decades it still stands proudly and strongly dominating our view across the valley.

We treat it with great respect. This oak is part of the property. It has witnessed the life and death of every generation that ever lived in this place.

In homage and reverence to this oak we have built two greenhouses under its mighty limbs this summer. We put our trust in that oak. We will do it no harm. We hope it will return the favour.

In the past the elders of its family have not been so lucky. Many I believe made the ultimate sacrifice and were cut down to provide the massive beams and rafters that form the wooden skeleton of our house and our barn.

I am sure my ancestral builders of this property would have used the green oak timber from this land.

To bring the massive oak timbers up our steep mountainside on a horse and cart would have been close to impossible.

So those oaks live on, no longer growing but still giving service supporting the structures of our life.

Up in our loft the oak beams remain rock solid. As well as supporting our roof they give a resting place to a little colony of pipistrelle bats that inhabit our attic.

In our living room we sit under the exposed oak beams everyday as we eat our meals at the dining table. In the past this room served as the kitchen as well and a big hook remains in the beam where the curing bacon hams would hang.

This was common practice in old welsh farmhouses. I am often reminded of a visit to my great aunts when I was five. They had bacon hanging from the hook on the ceiling beam.

Seeing this for the first time, to the embarrasment of my Welsh mother and the laughter of my aunts, I proclaimed “Errrr, look, there’s mouldy bacon.”

I had not yet, at that young age, developed an appreciation for the traditional practices of artisanal bacon production.

In the barn the oak rafters have not fared so well. The roof has not been kept in good repair and the rain has got through in places to wear down and rot the timbers. Very soon they will need to be replaced. The re-roofing of the barn is one of our priority projects for next year funds permitting.

It would be grand if we could use oak from our land for the new roof. Alas I don’t think that will be practical and I don’t think I want to cut down more mature oaks at this time. We did have a couple taken down for safety reasons a few years back but unfortunately they were not stored well enough and have begun to rot now.

Future families here, in decades or centuries to come, will have the luxury of many more oaks to use as the need arises. Of the new planting here a few years ago around 1500 were oaks. Some will need to be thinned out over the coming years. But in a hundred years or so there will be another 500 mature oaks here.

What changes those oaks will see over the coming decades.

The young oaks are slower growing than the other species we planted like ash, wild cherry and beech but they still present their own particular facets of fascinating beauty.

While some of the other species of new tree now tower several feet above my head the young oaks still barely reach my eye line.

This allows me to get a little bit more up close and personal. I love the range of colour in their leaves.

The oak is well known for supporting more species of insects and birds than any other tree, certainly in Britain.

One of the most interesting inhabitants of the oak is the gall wasp.

There are around 30 species of gall wasps found on oak.

This one is probably the Oak marble gall wasp (Andricus kollari).

It is the larval stage of the wasp that induces the tree to produce the abnormal growths, known as galls.

When I was young I always thought the galls were acorns.

Oaks in fact don't produce acorns until they are around 40 years old.

Imagine if humans didn't reach sexual maturity until we were 40. That would help solve the population crisis.

Let me know in the comments below if you found this interesting. If you do I'll make this a regular series - we have plenty more trees here - ash, beech, holly, aspen, willow, chestnut, hawthorn... Take your pick.

[all images taken by @pennsif]



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And I thought my house was old! I'd love to see the architecture of your house and more tree pictures. How many acres do you have to have that holds that many trees? Are they planted close together or spread out? Thank for the post!

I love old oak trees. I'm from a city that was one of America's earliest settlements so we have a ton of them littered around town, including this "tunnel" that was originally a driveway to a plantation.

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Wow, that looks impressive. Is that in one of the southern states ? Do oaks grow across the whole of the US?

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Yup, in Florida near Alabama. I'm not quite sure how they prolific they are. It seems their wood was used frequently in ship building so a lot of early settlements have them.

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Interesting about the ship building, thanks

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I believe they are live oaks, and not the oaks that grow in the UK and up in the northern States. It's a totally different tree that is evergreen and has acorns. I have never seen an actual oak tree like the ones that grow back in the UK down here in Florida. I think it is too hot in the south for them.

That is a beautiful oak tree! The first thing that I thought of when I saw it is: that is the perfect kind of strong tree for a treehouse! Lol... I never heard of that kind of bat or wasp; very interesting. :)
Would you like to read the tree house poem I wrote?? :) https://steemit.com/poetry/@poetrychick/the-treehouse-in-my-dream-poem

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Lovely poem. Maybe you could write one about the mighty oak? Thank you.

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Good idea. Thank you. :)
and You're welcome.

That's awesome, I'd like to see more of that original construction.

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I'll see what I can do.

Got many oaks here on the property. Live oaks and some water oaks, Florida does have lots of them. There is one about 4 miles from us that is the biggest oak I have ever seen. It is huge, dwarfs everything near it, what that tree must have seen! Great post btw🐓

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Glad you like the post. I'd not heard of water oaks before - just gone and read about them now :

You learn something new every day on steemit 😊

I have known many a great oak in my day! Many of which are no longer standing. There were 4 (2 at each entrance to property) at the gardens I used to manage that were 4-500 years old! There are a few on our current homestead that are definitely over 100 years old. There are many species of oaks all over the US. Great post! More trees, please!

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Thanks for the comment @wholesomeroots. I'm hoping to do some more posts in this series soon - maybe the ash next.

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that would be great! Do you have Rowan trees where you live? that is my son's name!

Great post. I always wondered what those balls were on the oak trees. You have lots of good information in your post and I can tell you worked hard on it. Thanks for the Post.

Great article... Wood good enough for the old Navy and a sign of quality materials, life for so many insects and birds and a great BTU value... Truly a tree of life.

Your home inspirers me! I feel a strong reverence for our trees as well. I feel like they protect our home with strong old grounding energy. Thank you for sharing your beautiful home, respect for your land and love.

Anything showing more of your homestead would be great! :-)

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Maybe I should do a little tour of the homestead...

Great post, I really enjoyed reading it. The mighty oak has to be one of the most beautiful trees. I have two water oaks, and I understand how the oaks are called mighty, the wood is so hard! Even the smallest twig is hard to break. Thanks for sharing!

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@pennsif Outside of the fact that you have a wealth of rotting leaves for composting, mulching, and attracting worms if you have a healthy ectomycorrhiza, then you may have truffles around the roots.

How many!!!! ;)
[We are blessed with over eleven thousand trees on our property.]

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It is a bit of a legacy for our children.

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I wonderful legacy :)
I'm hoping silver breaks out from manipulation so I can afford to buy some land.
Cornwall or Wales ideally.

  1. Such history. I took my kids to Monmouth and Cardiff a few years back. It is a beautiful country.
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It is indeed. A bit wet, but always beautiful.

Did you get to see much of the Welsh countryside?

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Just the drive up from Cardiff. Which was amazing. We did stop at an old abbey as well.

One of the things I really miss about the UK is the really old buildings. Adelaide was only settled in about 1830 so it's one of the newest states really.

I didn't know it took 40 years for oaks to produce acorns. We recently went to a home nearer the city centre which had a oak dropping acorns on the street in front of it. I realised it must have been pretty old, but this helps to give an idea of how early on they must have planted it.

Oh yes, please do! I love trees, and oaks are just so majestic!
Is it true, by the way, that Britain has so many mature oak trees because they were planted for shipbuilding before the industrial revolution, but once other materials became more common they were not harvested, so they just stuck around, growing into these enormous trees? Do you guys have any oak trees with edible acorns (for humans I mean)?
Okay, sorry for the endless questions. I love your tree-posts, please keep them coming!

Wow! You have a lot of oaks! In which area of Wales do you live? I spent all my childhood summers in Milford Haven (my mother's home town.)

We have a live oak tree in our yard. It is an evergreen, and has no resemblance to the oak, except for the acorns which the squirrels love! also, in St. Augustine Florida, just a few miles from here there is a live oak that is 700 years old!

Very, very interesting information! Thanks for sharing. I would love to hear more about the other kinds of trees!