The English oak is possibly the most well known and best loved tree in Britain. It is steeped in folklore and history that goes back thousands of years. In fact, the Celtic name for the oak tree is Duir – translating to door. This is because the ancient celts believed the oak to be a doorway to another realm and was a tree that connected the people and the gods.
Oak has also been a material that was favoured for building – you can see how durable it is, as there are many oak buildings that still stand today that were built hundreds of years ago, during the Tudor era. Oak has certainly not lost popularity as a building material either, and is still used today to build oak buildings and oak extensions.
One of the most important roles of the oak tree is within the natural environment – an oak tree is an ecosystem that supports many forms of life, and it is an essential part of the environment in the UK. Here are some of the creatures that rely on the Oak tree for survival…
The Purple Hairstreak Butterfly – These stunning butterflies are not seen often, and the reason for this is that they spend most of their time high up in the leaves of the oak tree. The Latin name for the butterfly in fact is Favonius Quercus – taken from the name Quercus Robur for the Oak tree, showing the integral part that the tree plays in the life cycle of this butterfly. When their caterpillars emerge, they rely solely on the leaves of the tree.
Jay – These pretty birds are actually Corvids – a member of the crow family, and therefore, like the other corvids, are extremely intelligent and possess a good memory. The reason that this intelligence is so important is because they bury acorns each year from the oak tree to sustain them throughout the winter months. Of course, not all of these can be remembered by the Jay, so they actually help new oak trees to grow where the forgotten acorns are buried!
Fungi – There are many species of fungi that live exclusively on an oak tree. The roots of the tree can extend for a long way, and there are many species, like the penny bun and the oakbug milkcap that live in the root system. Fungi have a mutually beneficial relationship with the tree, and because of the integral role that fungi play in a woodland, they have benefits that go far beyond the tree.