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Quercus robur L.

French: chêne pédonculé | German: Stieleiche, Sommereiche | Italian: farnia

Etymology of Latin species name: robur = strength, hard timber

Where it grows

The pedunculate oak is commonly found arcross most of Europe, except for its coldest and hottest zones. It grows at sea level in the northern range and up to 1 300 m above sea level in the Alps. This oak is typically one of the dominant tree species in temperate deciduous mixed forests in Europe.

What it looks like

The pedunculate oak is a big tree, growing 30-35 m tall and exceptionally up to 50 m. When isolated it develops a large trunk and an expanded crown with horizontal primary branches. Its lifespan can easily exceed 500 years. The leaves are egg-shaped with lobed margins. Male flowers grow in groups of green-yellow catkins that are 2-3 cm long, while female flowers grow in clusters of 2-5 on top of 3-5 cm long stalks (penduncles). Pollination is driven by wind. The fruits are 2- to 3-cm acorns that reach maturity in autumn and are dispersed principally by animals.

Uses

Since the earliest times, this oak has held an important role in human culture in Europe, providing wood for fuel, acorns for livestock, bark for tanning leather, and timber for construction. Together with the sessile oak, the pedunculate oak is amongst the most economically important deciduous forest trees in Europe, providing high quality hardwood for construction and furniture manufacture. This oak also has an important ecological role, as it supports many species of insects such as moths, wood-boring beetles and gall-forming hymenoptera, and the acorns provide a valuable food source for many birds and mammals, such as jays, mice, squirrels and wild boars.

Did you know?

  • The oak was a sacred tree to the Greeks, Germans, Slavs and Celts, and this is why the oak frequently features in place names, and as part of national or regional symbols; e.g. it has appeared on German, Croatian and British coins, and in Bulgaria’s coat of arms.
  • Thanks to its high concentrations of tannins, oak wood is resistant to liquids, so it is used for making barrels for wines and spirits, the flavour of which it often enhances.
  • Mammals and birds are important for seed dispersal, in particular the Eurasian jay, which can be considered the primary propagator.
  • The pedunculate oak can be distinguished from the very similar sessile oak by its acorns, which are on stalks (peduncles), as opposed to sitting ("sessile") direct on the branches of the tree.
  • Oak Decline is a new syndrome that mainly affects pedunculate and sessile oaks, and has become a widely recognised problem in recent years. Whilst not yet fully understood, it may be a consequence of human activities that have led to, for instance, the lowering of the groundwater table, the absence of flooding, air and water pollution, inappropriate silvicultural practices, and climate change.

Check out the European Atlas of Forest Tree Species. It has much more information about pedunculate oak and many other tree species in Europe's forests.

Distribution map of pedunculate oak in Europe
© European Union, 2017
A 1000-year old pedunculate oak in Bad Blumau (western Austria)
© Wikimedia, Claus Ableiter – CC-BY 3.0
Maturing acorns of pedunculate oak
© Wikimedia, Donar Reiskoffer – CC-BY 3.0
German euro coins of 1-cent, 2-cent and 5-cent show leaves and acorns of a pedunculate oak
© Fotolia, Rokfeler
A red squirrel collecting acorns
© Fotolia, aapsky
Oak barrels used for storing wine
© Fotolia, franco lucato

Learn more about the research the European Commission does on forests and forestry.