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Oak, Turkey (Quercus cerris)

Turkey oak is a deciduous broadleaf tree native to south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor.

Common name: Turkey oak

Scientific name: Quercus cerris
Family: Fagaceae

UK provenance: non-native

Interesting fact: 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.

What does Turkey oak look like? 

Overview: Turkey oak can grow to 30m and 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.

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.

Flowers: the catkins are pollinated by wind

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. 

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

Could 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.

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

Where to find Turkey oak

Native to the south east France and 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. 

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.

Mythology and symbolism

The oak is held in high regard across most cultures in Europe. It was sacred to many gods including Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Roman) and Dagda (Celtic). Each of these gods ruled over thunder and lightning, and oak trees are prone to lightning strikes as they are often the tallest living feature in the landscape.

How we use 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. 

Threats

Turkey oak does not appear to suffer from any particular pests and pathogens in the UK.

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