We humans are slight things in comparison to oaks. It is humbling to stand by an old oak. Their life span may be as much as seven or eight hundred years and I find it interesting that they are not particularly a northern tree as we Brits tend to think, with our great symbolic oak forests and our heart- of-oak fighting ships and the supports of our great cathedrals. In fact the majority of them live between only 15 degrees and 30 degrees north. That is Mexico, Central America and Yunnan.
There is however one splendid oak not far from my home in Linconshire, the Bowthorpe Oak. Its age is not really known but was recorded in 1768 to have been ” in the same state of decay since the memory of the older inhabitants and their ancestors. ” The great trunk was hollowed out so that the Squire of Bowthorpe could sit down to dine with 20 friends,
The Bowthorpe Oak. Photo from the Ancient Tree Hunt site here
I am discovering so many lovely oak trees here in Orlando. Some with leaves that are similar to the English oak to the small narrow leathery leaves of the Live oak. Here are two leaves that I collected the other day, one from the Chinquapin Oak Quercus muhlenbergii and the other from the Durand Oak Quercus durandii. The Chinquapin is a confusing tree as it has spiny pods more like a chestnut, and leaves that look more like beech than oak… Sometimes the tags in the garden get moved around, misplaced or faded but this one is clear, it is definitely an oak.
I am in the middle of making a study of the Chinquapin Oak’s spiny pod which I gathered at some personal injury. These are in fact both white oaks which are distinguished from red oaks in that the leaf veins in red oaks extend outwards to form bristles on the ends of the leaf lobes. White oaks generally produce larger acorns than red oaks, some quite sweet and used as important food stuff by the indigenous Indians. I am waiting for the Chinquapin nuts to mature and then, first purchasing some armoured gloves to try to get at the nut, will give them a try.
And here is another interesting botanical term tyloses, this is another distinguishing factor of White Oaks over Red.
Tyloses are bubble-like tissues from adjacent wood cells that invade and block the large pores in the wood and so block water and air. The presence of tyloses in white oaks makes the wood watertight, which is why it is preferred for barrels used to store wine and whiskey and shipbuilding, to red oak, which lacks tyloses and does not hold water.