Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.
French: Chêne rouvre, Chêne sessile | German: Traubeneiche, Wintereiche
Etymology of Latin species name: petraea = of the rocks, as it can grows on dry soils
Where it grows
The sessile oak is commonly found across most of Europe, reaching northwards to the southern Scandinavian Peninsula, and southwards to the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula, southern Italy, the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey. It grows at sea level in the northern range and at up to 1 300 m above sea level (asl) in the Alps and 2 000 m asl in Turkey. This oak is typically one of the dominant tree species in European temperate deciduous mixed forests.
What it looks like
The sessile oak is a large tree, growing 30 m in height and 1m in diameter. When isolated, it develops into the typical tree shape: a main stem with a globose crown. Individuals can live for a very long time (over 1 000 years in some cases) and become large (over 40 m tall), attaining diameters of 3-4 m. The leaves are egg-shaped with lobed margins. Male flowers grow in groups of green-yellowish catkins that are 5 cm long, while female flowers grow in clusters of bracts, which are small, solitary and inconspicuous. Pollination is driven by wind. The fruits are 2 to 3 cm acorns that reach maturity in about six months.
Since the earliest times, sessile 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 pedunculate oak, the sessile 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.
- As the wood is resistant to liquids, 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.
- 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 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 Sessile Oak and many other tree species in Europe's forests.
Learn more about the research the European Commission does on forests and forestry.