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Quick facts

Common name: Turkey oak, Austrian oak

Scientific name: Quercus cerris

Family: Fagaceae

Origin: non-native

Turkey oak is a deciduous broadleaf tree which can grow to 30m. It was introduced to the UK as an ornamental tree in the 18th century. The bark is dark grey, maturing with various plates and deep fissures. On older trees, the trunk fissures are often streaked with orange near the base.

Look out for: the leaf lobes which are deeply cut with short points at the tips.

Identified in winter by: buds in clusters and the bud scales which extend beyond the bud. Each bud has more than three scales.

What does Turkey oak look like?

Leaves of Turkey oak

Credit: FLPA / Alamy Stock Photo

Leaves

Dark green and variable in shape – some lobes are elaborate and pointed while other leaves have rounded, simple lobes. To touch they are rough and thick, shiny above but felted underneath.

Turkey Oak Flowers

Credit: Zoonar Gmbh / Alamy Stock Photo

Flowers

The flowers appear on dangly catkins between April and May and are pollinated by wind.

 

Turkey oak acorn cup

Credit: WTML / Clare Topping

Fruits

The large acorns mature 18 months after pollination. Acorns are quite distinct – orange at the base, graduating to a green-brown tip, and with a 'hairy' acorn 'cup', which looks like a hat made of moss. 

Not to be confused with:

Other oak species. It can be distinguished from native oaks by its 'hairy' acorn cups, which look like they are covered in a dense coating of moss.

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Where to find Turkey oak

Native to south-east Europe and Asia Minor, from France across to the Balkans and Turkey, Turkey oak is widely planted in much of Europe and was reintroduced to UK woodlands in the 18th century.

You'll see it planted in parks and gardens and along roadsides in the UK. It can set seed and so has become naturalised in the UK. You may find it growing close to our native English oak and sessile oak.

Did you know?

Turkey oak is host to the gall wasp Andricus quercuscalicis, whose larvae damage the acorns of native British oaks. In 1998, the Ministry of Defence ordered the felling of all Turkey oaks on its UK bases.

Value to wildlife

Turkey oak is not as valuable to native wildlife as English and sessile oaks, but the catkins provide a source of pollen for bees and other insects, and the acorns are eaten by birds and small mammals (although they are said to be less palatable than native oak acorns). Birds may nest and roost among the branches.

Uses of Turkey oak

Turkey oak is mainly used as an ornamental tree, though it is less widely planted now, due to the damage its gall wasp can cause to native oak acorns. 

Its timber has a fairly poor reputation, especially for use outdoors as it doesn’t weather well. However, it can be used indoors where it may crack and warp, but historically it was made into wainscoting (wood panelling). If well-seasoned it can be used for firewood.