30.4.2023 | Jeanette Aurdal

How to Identify an Oak Tree Throughout the Year

The oak tree has long been prized for legendary strength, longevity, and excellent wood properties. Oak trees adapt well in the natural forest, the suburban yard and oak parks of inner cities. Oaks have become objects of art, myth, and worship. You will most likely have the opportunity to see a ubiquitous oak tree every time you leave the house.

The oak tree is a favorite wood used for hundreds of manufactured forest products, and, so, is favored as a crop tree and carefully managed in a forest for future harvest.

Oak Tree by Lettie Neame
A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit
- an ancient Greek proverb

Identifying Oak Trees

Identifying oak trees (Quercus sp.) is easy when you look for several distinct features. Even in winter, when the leaves have fallen, subtle differences in the bark, twigs, acorns, and silhouette can help you distinguish oaks from other trees. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with these characteristics will give you the confidence to accurately identify individual oaks in all four seasons, which can be such a joyful experience.

When I walk in the countryside I no longer see trees, I see an oak, an ash, chestnuts and beeches. Every so often I see a tree I am not sure about, and I use The Woodland Trusts wonderful app on my phone to identify it.

When I walk in the countryside I no longer see trees; I see an Oak, an Ash, Chestnuts and Beeches...
- Jeanette

Distinctive Features of Oak Trees

Oak trees typically have several large branches instead of one straight leader. They are also as wide as they are tall when given enough room; however, growing conditions can affect their shape and size more significantly than the species itself. Oak’s large-scale, furrowed bark creates scaly ridges along its trunk. Young oaks may have a smoother bark than mature trees.

When looking at their leaves, oaks are easy to identify. Their leaves are always longer than they are wide. They have sinuses and lobes, shallow or spiny, depending on the species. Evergreen oaks like the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) often have smooth, oblong leaves with shallow spiny lobes. The leaves of a blue oak (Quercus douglasii) are round and have irregularly shaped, shallow lobes. Oak leaves are slower to rot than other species and may remain on the ground for inspection.

Oak Acorns and Oakling by Lettie Neame

Oaks are the only trees with acorns, so if the acorns are attached to a branch, the tree is certainly an oak. Coast live oak acorns are long and pointed with a smooth, cup-like covering over one-third of the acorn. Blue oak acorns have a shallow, warty or scaled cup.

The twigs of an oak tree are grayish-brown and relatively thick. They have clusters of rough, rounded buds. In older trees, the twigs may become longer and more slender.

Oak trees can easily be identified by their silhouette. Their branches typically grow sturdy and upright and create a round, dome-like shape. The individual branches are often knarly, and looks like artheritic fingers...

Oak in English Countryside

By familiarizing yourself with the characteristics of oak trees, you can develop the confidence to identify them throughout the seasons.

Remember: look for oak’s scaly bark, lobed leaves, acorns, twigs and silhouette to distinguish them from other trees!

Enjoy the journey of being able to identify individual trees and take pleasure in being able to attribute unique characteristics to each one!

I am so obsessed with the beauty of this King of the Forrest that my wedding ring resemble the bark of my favourite tree...

Oak Bark as inspiration for wedding ring
Bespoke ring made by Clio Saskia

The Oak used by The Oak & Rope Company

We source our oak only from sustainable sources, mostly from France where there are long traditions of farming oak. Briefly explained it means that their oak trees are planted a particular distance apart to ensure that they have the optimum light and nutrients. They are planted in such a way that the trees are encouraged to grow upwards rather than outwards. This ensures that we have access to timber with very few knots and imperfections, reducing waste and maximising growth.

Oak is a carbon sink. Both the tree and the wood it produces absorb carbon dioxide. Oak trees can last for centuries, allowing you to avoid purchasing new furniture every few years. Also, oak is considered carbon-neutral if responsibly resourced, allowing you to build a lower carbon footprint than you would with other wood types.

Also, oak is considered a very ethical material because it absorbs carbon dioxide during its life. Furthermore, oak trees are long-lived and are a popular choice among furniture makers and carpenters. Oak trees grow slowly, making their wood very dense, which means it will hold up to a lot of wear and tear

This long-lasting quality means that oak pieces need to be replaced less frequently, reducing waste and resource consumption. You are not only investing in a piece that will stand the test of time, but also promoting sustainable use of natural resources.

Oak as an Eco-friendly Material

Carbon Sequestration and Climate Change Mitigation

Oak trees play a vital role in mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. This process, known as carbon sequestration, helps to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations and combat global warming. When oak is used for furniture, the stored carbon remains locked away for the lifetime of the piece, further contributing to climate change mitigation efforts.

Biodegradability and Waste Reduction

When oak furniture eventually reaches the end of its useful life, its natural decomposition process ensures that it won’t contribute to long-lasting waste in landfills. Unlike synthetic and non-biodegradable materials, oak breaks down into organic matter, returning nutrients to the soil and supporting the growth of new plants. Choosing oak furniture contributes to waste reduction and a healthier environment.

Ethical and Responsible Sourcing

Sustainable forestry practices and certification systems, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), ensure that oak is sourced ethically and responsibly. By supporting eco-friendly furniture manufacturers who adhere to these certifications, you can help protect forests, promote biodiversity, and support local economies and communities.

These are all reasons why our love for this tree is fully complimentary with using its timber to create heilooms of the future...
- Jeanette

One of our clients swinging on his Oak & Rope swing from his oak tree...

An oak tree entering into its last 300 years...
It is said that an oak tree takes 300 years to grow, 300 years to mature and 300 years to die
- The Glorious Life of the Oak by John Lewis-Stempel

For further reading we recommend John Lewis-Stepels book. It is a masterpiece and a true celebration of this glorious tree. It is a beautiful book we dip into regularly. (Click here for our review of the book).

At the heart of our business lies the mighty oak tree. It symbolises the acorn that stood its ground, whose roots were made stronger by the wind and whose boughs could tell a thousand tales.

We look to honour the wood, create an item that is testament to its strength and beauty.
We pass that on to you to love and cherish.