Jan oak 1
One of my favourite trees is called Dave (I asked it), and it stands as a formidable sentry, resolutely guarding the driveway to Thrive.

It’s actually a common oak (Quercus robur). Every time I see it I feel a sense of uplifting that I find difficult to give reason for. It is certainly an ancient tree that invokes a feeling of permanence and stability.

The wizen of time lends character to its powerful limbs. Typically for an oak of its age, the heart wood has begun to hollow out, creating lignified caves at the base. I haven’t been brave enough to put my hand in yet! Even so, as gnarled and robust as it is, it still has an eye-catching elegance and it is beautifully proportioned.

Jan oak 3

One of the things I love most about our oaks, and particularly Dave is the diversity of wildlife that it supports; the mighty canopy is habitat to a huge number of flora and fauna.

Squirrels jealously bury and pirate acorns. Taking a few moments to watch them always makes the day better. On our oak I have also noticed a pair of nuthatches creeping around the bark searching out the insects that I have no hope of seeing.

A woodpecker makes a regular appearance and its green iridescence in the low sun is striking. Last week I spotted a pale tussock moth caterpillar – it was a moment that had to be shared with colleagues.

Jan oak 2

Over the last few years I have been particularly fascinated by the various oak galls that appear. I have been able to identify three different galls so far, each made by a particular species of wasp (which in themselves have a fascinating story to look into):

  • Oak marble gall, which is a very good description and takes the place of leaf buds.
  • Oak knopper gall, which look like little volcanoes and distort the acorn growth.
  • Oak spangle gall, quite discretely tucked away on the underside of the leaf, they look like little discs. Later on in the season you will see a yellow discolouration on the top of the leaf which more easily reveals their hiding place. There are a few different types of spangle galls, but I notice one with regularity.
Jan oak 5

There is a depth of fascination to our beautiful oaks that I think is unparalleled, and I am particularly thankful for this tree that fascinates me, and silently greets me and bids me farewell every day.

Jan Broady, Thrive Reading Senior Horticultural Therapist