Oak - 'Father of Trees'

Monday, February 13, 2017


I am known by many names: 

  • ‘Quercus robur’
  • ‘King of the Forest’
  • ‘Tree of Long Life and Strength’
  • ‘Marriage Tree’
  • ‘Tree of the Holy Groves’
  • ‘Father of Trees’
  • ‘Duir’
  • ‘The Lightening Tree’
  • ‘Tree of Courage’
There are 450 species of my tribe worldwide.

I grow very slowly but can eventually reach a height of 30 metres and can live to be 500 years, though a few of my hardier clan have lived much longer.

In late May, my leaves appear. Insects and wee beasties nibble at my leaves so much that by late July I am looking tattered and worn.

But magically I grow a new flush of leaves on Lammas, the Celtic Festival of first fruits celebrated on August 1st.

I have male flowers which are the catkins which grow just after my leaves appear, and female flowers which are my fairy acorn cups – but I have to wait until I am 50 years old for these first fruits to grow.

My roots are wide and strong and have a good grip of the Earth whilst my branches reach skywards and attract the fresh sweet rain.

As Father of Trees I provide a home to many woodland creatures – insects, birds, small mammals, who depend on me for shelter and food.  Grouse, red squirrels, crows and jays feast on my nuts in the autumn.

Acorns were ground into flour by humans long ago at times of hardship.

My bark can be used to tan leather and also infused to dye wool, and lichen loves to makes its home in my gnarled furrows.

Wine is brewed from my leaves in Spring and Autumn, and ink can be made from my Oak Galls.

Vikings longboats and Navy ships of long ago were built from my strong durable wood as were the beams of Tudor houses.

Furniture makers prize my beautiful wood and make tables, chests and chairs that can last for many generations. It was said that King Arthur’s Round Table was crafted from one of my great trees and legends abound in my association with Merlin.

In Greek mythology they believed that there were Oak Tree spirits, wizened old men, called Dryads and that from this sacred tree emerged the whole human race.

Long ago, Druids (the Wise men of the Oak) would gather in my Oak Groves. Mistletoe, probably the Druids most potent and magical plant, frequently grew on Oak trees and its presence was believed to indicate the hand of God having placed it there in a lightening strike.

I am the tree that attracts lightening the most, and some of the older members of my tribe have the scars to prove this.

Many parishes had a Gospel oak under which the community might gather for bible readings or a marriage.

To carry an acorn was believed to bring a long and healthy life. Young lovers in ancient days placed two acorns in a bowl of water and waited to see if they moved apart or together to seal the romance’s future.

The ancient tribes of Europe held me in high esteem, especially individuals in my tribe who had lived a long life like the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his merry men hatched their plots.

I was sacred to the Gods Thor, Zeus, Esus, Odin, Jupiter, Hercules and Pan and to the Celtic / Christian Goddess Bridget.

And in the days of long long ago, Ancient Kings would wear a crown of my leaves as a symbol of their strength and fertility.

Many, many thanks to Sally York from the Forestry Commission Scotland for giving me permission to reprint the above from Tree Stories - A Learning Resource written by Claire Hewitt .

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1 comments

  1. William Bryant Logan makes a strong case for the importance of oak in the human evolution in 'Oak - the Frame of Civilization'

    more at : https://www.amazon.com/Oak-Civilization-William-Bryant-Logan/dp/0393327787

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