The oak tree has long been beloved as a symbol of England and has an abundance of legends and stories surrounding it going back many years. It is also a favourite building material with the Tudors right the way through to modern day building such as these oak extensions https://www.timberpride.co.uk/timber-oak-framed-extension/
Oak trees are also important to Britain because of the vast number of creatures that they support. An integral part of the ecosystem, the oak tree has many species relying on it for survival – here are just a few…
Jays – The Jay is actually a member of the crow family, something which surprises many people as they have a much more colourful appearance than their dark counterparts! The clue for the heavy reliance that Jays have on the oak tree is in their Latin name – Garrulus Glandarius. Glandarius is the Latin word for acorn, which is what attracts the Jay to the oak tree. Jays will hoard thousands of acorns and are fantastic at remembering where most are buried – of course the ones that they don’t find will have the potential to then become new oak trees!
Purple Hairstreak Butterfly – This beautiful butterfly is another creature that is so reliant on oak that it is named after the tree – the Latin name for the English oak is Quercus Robur and the Latin name for this species of butterfly is Favonius Quercus! Their caterpillars rely solely on the leaves of oak trees for food, and therefore this is the best place to spot one of these pretty butterflies and their caterpillars.
Wood Ants – This is the largest of the ants in the UK and they can often be found near to oak trees. The reason for this is that the tree produces a sweet substance known as honeydew which is adored by aphids. The wood ants feed on the honeydew from the aphids, and rather unusually despite being carnivorous don’t kill them – rather they milk them to get the honeydew from their abdomen! They will be attracted to an oak tree where they will scale the tree right to the top to get to the aphids, which also works in the aphid’s favour as it deters other predators from coming near!
Fungi – The roots of the oak can extend over a large area and are a home for species of fungi – some which exclusively live on oak trees. These are also important as the relationship that they have with an oak tree actually is beneficial to the health of both the fungi and the tree itself. This is known as a symbiotic relationship. The types of fungi that like to live in the root system of an oak include the penny bun, oakbug milkcap and yellowdrop milkcap. Fungi are actually hugely important to the eco-system and health of an entire woodland so their presence around an oak tree has benefits that extend beyond the tree itself.