Holm Oak 2

It is that time of year again, and our splendid Holm Oak, also known as an Evergreen Oak, is in flower by the village hall in Charlton Down. It loses leaves at any time throughout the year, and so it is not unusual for dead leaves to carpet the ground beneath the tree while new leaves and flowers appear in the canopy.

The species was first introduced in the 1500’s from the Eastern Mediterranean. Although it is not adapted as much as our native oaks, it supports plenty of our wildlife. A good tree for surviving hot and dry summers, but not so good at coping with severe frosts and cold. That’s why it mostly grows on the coast and in Southern England.

Maybe we should all be thinking of planting more sun-loving and drought tolerant trees and shrubs around Greenwood House to allow for the fact that weather patterns are changing. I think that future generations would be grateful to inherit plants that withstand the warmer climate and need less intensive management and watering. (There are lots of much smaller options than this magnificent tree).

The Holm Oak

Permanently overshadowing the path that leads from Herrison Hall to the cricket ground is a massive tree that goes mostly unnoticed. It is not glamourous when compared with the showier specimen trees nearby. No brightly coloured leaves or flowers. It is a Holm Oak or Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) with dark green, leathery-textured leaves more like holly than the normal appearance of other species of oak; and these leaves are not shed en masse in autumn but each one lasts about four years before falling at any time throughout the year.

This evergreen species is a native to the Mediterranean region and has become naturalised in Britain. Thought to have been introduced in the 16th century as an ornamental tree, it is well adapted to hot dry summers because its thick waxy foliage cuts down on water loss. At this time of year it produces male and female catkins which often go unseen until strong winds bring them down to litter the ground. This year flowers are still in bud compared with last year. Strangely, I have never seen any acorns in autumn on this particular tree. In the south of England Holm Oaks are amongst the largest and can reach a height of 80 feet with a broad spreading crown, and may live to be 250 years old.

These pictures were taken of the same tree at various times, at different angles, over the last 18 months.