This tree is more of a shrub. It can grow to an average height of 10m and is often seen in hedgerows, squidged between other trees such as hawthorn, holly and ash.
In Scotland it’s known as the bourtree and has long been associated with the mystic. If elder trees grew on farmland, it was considered a blessing and it is said that as it can never be struck by lightning, it is good to have one near your home.
This story about oak trees is a favourite, told to me by Stanley Robertson
In Scotland you might see two different oak trees – the English oak and the sessile oak.
How d’you spot the difference? The English oak has bunches of leaves with no stalks with its acorns on stalks, the sessile is the opposite.
These trees can live to a great age and if they have room, will grow up to 50m, expanding out to give a lovely canopy.
The oak can be found all over Europe; on the west coast of Scotland forests of oak are particularly dense. These wonderful trees can support approximately 500 types of insects. When the leaves fall they form a rich rotting carpet that provides food for many.
Oak has hardwood which has been used for centuries in shipbuilding and house building. Near where I live in Aberdeen, King’s College was built in 1495 on marshland on a raft of oak. Beautiful furniture and long-lasting barrels are also made from oak.
A wee tale….
In my childhood home we had an oak chest, inscribed with the date 1556. It was blackened with age.
One summer I was investigating my ancestry. I went down to Newcastle under Lyme, near Manchester. I visited the church where my mother’s ancestors, the Thicknes family, had been farmers. There was a chapel dedicated to the family in this church, and there, beside it, was a blackened oak chest, which looked exactly like the piece in my home. It gave me quite a thrill. As I put my hand on the smooth wood, it felt like I was touching and connecting with those in my past.
Oak tannin from the bark tans leather and even oak sawdust is used to flavour foods in the smoking process.