What is Welsh Oak anyway?

When we visited the botanical gardens at Kew last year I was confused by the oak trees — there are many varieties — none was labelled Welsh oak! Wandering through the diverse collection of oak trees I spotted one that looked familiar — one of our trees, it was labelled “Sessile oak”.

Sessile Oak, I read, is also known as Durmast Oak. Cornish Oak and Welsh Oak! Welsh Oak is Quercus patraea — patraea seems to mean “lives in rocky places” (I’d be more convinced if it meant “lives in wet places”!) Durmast makes sense though — dur is strong in French and mast is a spar on a sailing boat.

Q. patraea — Welsh Oak in Autumn

Don’t be confused with the other native British species, the Common Oak also known as Pedunculate or English Oak. English Oak is Quercus robur — robur means hard timber in Latin.

Welsh oak has acorns that sit directly on the tips of the new shoots (they are sessile i.e. they do not move).

Welsh Oak with leaves on stalks — acorns without pedicles.

English Oak has acorns on long pedicles so can wave about a bit! They are pedunculate.

The leaves are the opposite — the Welsh have stalks so produce dappled shade.

The English Oak leaves arise directly and densely on the twigs — they make dark shade.

English Oak Q. robur at Kew – leaves directly from growing tips around buds giving dense rosettes.

Simple! Except that they hybridize — you get mixtures.

Also the Welsh Oak is said to be taller and more upward stretching.

Welsh oak at home — tall and proud.

The English Oak is broader and more spreading.

However, how the tree grows has a lot to do with the density of its planting. A single tree in the middle of a field will stretch out sideways, its fellow in a dense wood with shoot up (slowly) to find the light!

My favorite oak — it lives in Wales but certainly spreads like an English Oak!

6 thoughts on “What is Welsh Oak anyway?

  1. Tim Ware says:

    Yet again a wonderful sideways look at life in the country. In Montgomeryshire we have wonderful hanging oak woods that hang on to the sides of the valleys, and are of course sessile oaks.

    • Thanks Tim –these days when we walk more slowly up the steep hill opposite, I often think of two octogenarians and the bull dog who did the same and have left their imprint somehow.

  2. Steve Lacey says:

    Very interesting. The oak in our garden in Stevenage, is more upright than it should be, following years of attack by previous tree surgeons! My vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden, confirms it is an English Oak, as it is rather too well shaded! Having said that we love it and its associated wildlife including a mix of grey and black squirrels. These were first spotted in Letchworth Garden City, the next town north from here. We also frequently hear a woodpecker, which I have never managed to spot on the tree, but have seen on our fence!

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