The oak tree goes through big changes throughout the year. In spring, the tree is coming back to life after a long period of dormancy, so what’s happening?
First of all are the leaves. Gone are the small brown buds and here are the fresh new leaves, bright with colour.
Oak leaves are heavily lobed and wavy in shape, and from this you can identify the two native Oak species.
The Sessile Oak has a leaf that starts with a triangular point where the leaf meets the twig. The second species of native oak is the Pedunculate (or English) Oak. In this tree, at the base of the leaf there is an extra set of ‘lobes’ which means the leaf starts as a circular shape rather than triangular.
Remarkably, many oaks will not drop the dead leaves from last year until spring, so you may be seeing some that look like they haven’t survived the winter.
After its period of dormancy in winter, the oak is in need of food from the sun, so sends out as many new leaves as possible to photosynthesise.
This does not go unnoticed by others. Many species of insect, including caterpillars and aphids, take advantage of the new growth by munching on the leaves.
There is a huge diversity of invertebrate species that do this on oak and as a result there is an equally large diversity of birds that you can hope to see in its branches.
Woodpeckers will attempt to find hidden grubs under the bark, great tits will explore the leaves for aphids and pied flycatchers patrol the air for flying insects.
All this means that the oak is one of the best trees to spend some time with on a warm spring day whilst wildlife watching.
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