Quercus robur, the English oak or common oak, is a British native tree. An iconic and much loved feature of the countryside, it's often found growing in woodland or as a lone majestic tree within a landscape. The lobed leaves are fresh green in summer, turning yellow and brown in autumn before falling. In spring, yellow catkins are produced and in autumn, acorns (fruits) fall to the ground.
An oak tree can live to be 1,000 years old and is often seen as a national symbol of history, strength and prosperity.
Quercus robur supports more wildlife than any other tree in the UK – it provides food and shelter for a whopping 2,300 species, some of which rely solely on it for survival.
The flowers are eaten by squirrels and many types of caterpillar and their pollen is a food source for bees, including the endangered oak-mining bee. The leaves are also a food source for caterpillars and aphids. These in turn attract predators from higher up the food chain. Crevices in the tree bark are make good nesting spots for birds, including woodpeckers and nuthatch, and provide roosting place for bats and the rare purple emperor butterfly.
The acorns are eaten by squirrels, badgers, deer and wood mice and birds including jays, rooks, woodpeckers and nuthatch. The soft leaves create a rich leaf mould, which supports fungi and invertebrates such as stag beetle.
This is a tree for a very large garden or parkland – it can ultimately reach 25m x 25m. However it can also be grown as a hedge – the perfect way to incorporate this beautiful wildlife plant into a smaller space. Grow in full sun or dappled shade, in moist, well drained soil. Be sure to add plenty of organic matter to the planting hole, such as well rotted manure or garden compost. Read our advice on planting trees and planting a bare root hedge.
English oak trees do not need pruning – just remove any broken or crossing branches in autumn or winter. When planting incorporate lots of well-rotted garden compost in the planting hole. If you're growing Quercus robur as a hedge, trim in late summer, checking carefully to ensure there are no nesting birds present, to keep it to the desired size.
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Advice on buying Quercus robur
- Make sure you have enough space to grow an English oak – it can reach ultimately reach 25m x 25m
- English oak can also be grown as a hedge – perfect for attracting wildlife to a small garden
- You're likely to find Quercus robur at a specialist tree nursery or online. Always buy trees from a reputable supplier that sells British-grown or certified disease-free stock, to guarantee against pests and diseases
- Look out for bare root plants that can be bought and planted in the dormant season – these are usually cheaper
Where to buy Quercus robur