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What is an Oak Tree?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2016
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An oak tree is one of many varieties of tree or shrub of either the Quercas or Lithocarpus genus. Native to the Northern Hemisphere, oak trees range widely across Europe, Asia, North and South America. Known for acorns and as a mythological symbol with many meanings, the oak tree is often renowned for its strength and longevity. Yet like most trees, the mighty branches hold a delicate system and balance of life that can be shaken and even destroyed by some conditions.

It is difficult to believe that a tree that can grow to be over 100 ft (30 meters) can start out as a tiny acorn. Indeed, these small fruits have a very rare chance of surviving to become a tree. Some experts estimate that less than one in 10,000 acorns will become a mature tree. Possibly as a way of ensuring species survival, many oak trees increase acorn production enormously after reaching maturity, producing thousands of acorns each year.

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In mythology, the oak tree is an important symbol across many different cultures. As a symbol of strength and power, the oak tree is often associated with the highest-ranked god of polytheistic religions. The tree is considered a major sign or associated symbol for Jupiter, Zeus, and Thor. In England, the famous Major Oak of Sherwood is often associated with the legends of Robin Hood, who supposedly hatched his plots near its boughs. The Judeo-Christian Bible is full of references to the oak tree, which often served as a symbol of the strength of the church and of God.

Despite its importance as a symbol of strength and virility, many oak trees are subject to serious and even fatal diseases. One condition, called sudden oak death, is caused by an infestation of near-microscopic mold, and can kill a healthy tree within days or weeks. Ailing oak trees can be an extreme danger to anyone nearby, as they can fall suddenly and with little warning. Care should be taken to regularly inspect oak trees that grow in public areas, in order to avoid accidents and even fatalities.

Oaks are prized for their wood for many different uses, including the making of barrels. Wine barrels constructed from oak are highly prized for their ability to add flavor and depth to wines, improving the taste and quality of many vintages. For centuries, oaks were also prized in construction, particularly in England where they became the favored timber in Tudor-style homes and buildings. Sturdy furniture is still constructed from oak and highly valued, although its presence as a building material has greatly lessened since the early 20th century due to fire danger.

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julies
Post 4

Even though I grew up in the city, there was a park close by my house that had some oak trees planted there.

I remember one year there was some kind of oak tree fungus that was killing several of the trees around that area. I think this was happening in other parts of the country as well.

I think this fungus was a slow growing thing, and didn't kill the oak trees as quickly as something like sudden oak death does.

Either way, it is very sad when something as tall and big as an oak tree has a disease. Many of them had to be cut down because they were afraid they would fall over and someone would get hurt.

This is so sad because it does take a long time for these trees to grow and become fully mature.

andee
Post 3

From everything I have ever seen, oak trees don't grow very quickly. I have always wondered if there was a variety of fast growing oak tree.

We moved to our house five years ago, and there was one small oak tree planted in the back yard. It seems like this tree has barely even grown over the five years we have been here.

When I look at pictures, I can see that it has grown, but it is so slow that it seems hardly noticeable.

When I realize how long it takes an oak tree to mature, I can understand why oak furniture is so expensive. I have always loved the light color of oak furniture and know the wood is solid and will last a long time.

John57
Post 2

My parents live on a farm, and there are several different kinds of oak trees where they live. I can usually identify an oak tree by their leaves and growth habit, but I don't know all the different varieties.

I remember reading once that there were around 80 different kinds of oak trees in the United States, and many other kinds all over the world.

Whenever I am close to a big, tall oak tree, I always feel small and a little insignificant. They are such beautiful, majestic trees that have provided me with a lot of memories of my childhood.

We would often take a picnic lunch and sit under one of the oak trees. This is also the perfect place to relax in the shade on a hot summer day.

Mykol
Post 1

My home office window looks out across a fence to several oak trees scattered across my neighbor's property.

I enjoy looking at these oak trees during the different seasons of the year. In the winter when all of the leaves are gone, you get an idea of how big these trees really are.

Many times when there is a lot of snow on the ground and not much for the deer to eat, I will see them under these oak trees. They will be pawing at the snow trying to get to the acorns on the ground for food.

That is quite an amazing thing when you realize that only 1 in 10,000 acorns ever becomes an oak tree. I have seen what looks like hundreds of acorns under one tree, but they also provide food for deer and squirrels.

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