Wood is central to human existence – it’s built our shelters, cooked our food, and it’s kept us safe. It plays an integral role in everyday life, in every country worldwide.
We’re devoting our next three blog posts to exploring our favourite types of wood, and the role they play across the world.
Our first post takes a look at perhaps the most famous of wood types – the English Oak.
The English Oak – or Quercus Robur – is a symbol of strength, protection, longevity, and survival. This blooming tree is the thickest in Northern Europe, and offers food and shelter for neighbouring insects and wildlife. It grows for 300 years, can live up to 1,000 years, and takes up to 150 years before an oak is ready to use.
The old saying is that England was built on Oak. This tree is the national emblem of the country, and is deeply rooted in its long history. While Oak dates back about 300,000 years, it’s still one of the most common tree species in the UK.
Symbolism & Spiritual and Medicinal purposes:
The Oak is sacred to ancient Greek Roman, Irish, Germanic, and English people.
Zeus, Jupiter and Dagda – the Greek gods who ruled over thunder and lightning. Oak trees are prone to lightning strikes as they typically tower over other vegetation in the forest.
In Celtic folklore, The Oak symbolizes winter.
Mistletoe, which makes its home in Oak trees, is known for its ‘kissing power’ folklore. This parasitic plant is also integral to Druids, who believe that mistletoe captures the soul of the oak tree; evident in the plant’s year-long green colour. In turn, the mistletoe uses this power to heal and protect from evil while bringing the holder good luck.
Historically, the astringent and antiseptic effects of the Oak have been treasured. The leaves, bark, and acorns were used to treat:
- sore throat
- mouth sores
- kidney stones
- gastrointestinal issues
The most famous Oak tree story comes from King Charles II hiding in an oak tree during the Battle of Worcester in 1651. This tree, now dubbed the Royal Oak, stood for 100 years until it was damaged by tourists taking snips from the cherished tree. The Royal Oak is the third most popular pub name in Britain and has been the name of 8 major Royal Navy warships.
The Oak has held a place on currency in Croatia, England, and Germany and can be found on the national coat of arms in Bulgaria.
Couples wed under oak trees in the 1600s.
Oak trees are used as the festive Yule Log – the tradition of burning a tree over the 12 days of Christmas – in the UK.
Roman Emperors were presented with oak leaf crowns in victory parades.
Tannin found in the bark is used to tan leather.
Galls, formed by wasps within the tree, were once used to make ink.
Acorns have long been used as a food source and historically humans processed acorns into flour used to make bread and porridge.
Oak is one of the most durable hardwood choices. It was used in shop building until the mid-19th century. It’s still is a popular choice for architectural beams, flooring, cabinetry, wine and whiskey barrels, and firewood.