Turkey Oak Tree (quercus Cerris)
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Turkey Oak Tree - General Information

The turkey oak is a very fast growing deciduous tree, growing faster than any other species of oak, with some having already reached heights of up to 130 feet since their introduction in about 1735. The turkey oak is a native tree of Turkey and south-east Europe and out of the many species of oak that have been introduced here, it is one of only a few species of oak that have become naturalised in Britain, which is partly due to its ability to tolerate different soil types.

Due to its rapid growth and hardiness, it was hoped that the turkey oak would provide an excellent source of timber but unfortunately due to the wood splitting and warping during seasoning, this was not to be. Instead, the turkey oak became a very popular ornamental tree in gardens and parks due to its handsome appearance and wide conical crown. Growing especially well in southern England, the turkey oak soon spread to the wild aided by birds and small mammals, quickly establishing itself in woodlands and hedgerows.

Unfortunately, in recent years, it has been discovered that the turkey oak plays host to a parasitic wasp (Andricus quercuscalicis) which forms galls on our own native oaks leading to the damage of their acorns. This has caused many people to consider now the turkey oak as an invasive species which should be felled from woodlands and indeed the Ministry of Defence, back in the late 1990's, instructed that all turkey oaks present on their UK bases should be felled.

Description of a Turkey Oak

The bark of the turkey oak is a dark grey in colour, developing deep fissures and plates as it matures, with some of the fissures at the base of the trunk being a noticeable orange colour.

The pale green leaves start to unfurl in early May and while the undersides remain pale in colour. The upper surface develops into a glossy dark green colour, turning brown in the autumn before eventually falling. Unlike the leaves of our native oaks the leaves of the turkey oak are much slimmer and have lobes that are more pointed.

Both male and female flowers are produced on the same tree. The male flowers are long catkins which ripen in May to release a mass of pollen while the female flowers are inconspicuous and are found growing on the base of the leaves.

Pollination is by the wind and once this has taken place the female flowers develop into acorns which take two years to ripen. Unlike the fruits of our own native acorns, the fruits of the turkey oak sit in a mossy like cup, which is one of the best ways to tell them apart.

Cultivation of a Turkey Oak Tree

The turkey oak tree grows in most well-drained soil including heavy clay and light sandy soils but due to the timber being rather brittle, exposed windy areas are best avoided as the branches are liable to break suddenly off during high winds.

The turkey oak tree is a low maintenance tree and is ideal for public parks and gardens and cottage gardens. Propagation is by seed.

Pests and Diseases of the Turkey Oak Tree

Turkey oaks in the United Kingdom do not seem to suffer from any problematic pests or diseases at this present time.

Pruning of a Turkey Oak Tree

Like all oak trees, the turkey oak is low maintenance and forms a naturally good shape which requires little pruning but any shaping or crown lifting that may be necessary should be undertaken during the winter months.

Medicinal Uses of the Turkey Oak Tree

Galls produced by the turkey oak are very astringent and have been used for treating dysentery, diarrhoea and haemorrhages.

Other Uses of the Turkey Oak Tree

The wood is of little value and even when used as firewood it will throw sparks and although its principal use in the United Kingdom has been as an ornamental tree, these days, due to the damage caused by the gall wasps it hosts, the turkey oak is less widely planted.

The acorns of the turkey oak provide an excellent source of food for small mammals and birds while the catkins provide pollen for various insects and bees.

The Turkey Oak Tree in Folklore and Mythology

Although our own native oak trees are surrounded by folklore and mythology, the introduced turkey oak does not seem to have any particular mythology or folklore attached to it.

Interesting Facts about the Turkey Oak Tree

Due to the turkey oaks strange looking mossy acorn cups (or cupules to name them correctly) in some parts of Britain the turkey oak is known as the softly cupped oak tree.


This article was brought to you by GraftinGardeners, an arboricultural company based in Richmond. We can fell and remove any tree in the tightest of situations. Visit our website today where you can find photos of our work and more great articles like this on our blog.

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