Wildlife

The UK’s 121 mil­lion mighty oaks sup­port more an­i­mal and plant species than any other tree

Garden News (UK) - - News - With Ju­lian Rollins

Blen­heim Palace is quite some­thing. If you’ve not been, I’d rec­om­mend it. I went re­cently and was wowed by the place. Even the tea­room is be­yond grand, but what im­pressed me most was the palace’s set­ting – the beau­ti­ful park­land.

As a bit of a tree-fancier, it was a thrill to see so many ven­er­a­ble old trees. Ap­par­ently, the Bri­tish Isles has more an­cient trees than all of the con­ti­nent put to­gether, and that’s largely down to a na­tional pas­sion for land­scaped park­land like Blen­heim’s.

A re­cent study at Blen­heim con­cluded that 60 or more of the oaks date back to the Mid­dle Ages. Some are around 1,000 years old. Of course, most of us don’t have an es­tate to grow oak trees in, but there’s a good chance that there are oaks not that far from your gar­den.

The UK has about 121 mil­lion of them (of which nearly a mil­lion are in Lon­don). In cities and towns they’re street trees, or grow in parks and other open spa­ces.

All ur­ban and sub­ur­ban trees are im­por­tant for wildlife, but oaks are the most im­por­tant. They sup­port more an­i­mal and plant species than any other tree.

Here’s just one ex­am­ple. Mighty oaks do grow from tiny acorns, but most acorns get eaten. Squir­rels, mice, nuthatches, jays and wood pi­geons will all make a meal of an acorn, as do deer and even badgers.

Wher­ever you live, there are so many rea­sons to value oaks. Which makes it espe­cially wor­ry­ing that the 21st cen­tury seems to be a dif­fi­cult time for them.

There are con­cerns about a num­ber of dis­eases, in­clud­ing honey fun­gus and a con­di­tion called acute oak de­cline. We’ve so many oaks, but we re­ally shouldn’t take them for granted. l A new ap­peal called Ac­tion Oak is work­ing to pro­tect oaks for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Find out more at www.ac­tionoak.org.

There are around 121 mil­lion oak trees in the UK, and squir­rels are one of their most fre­quent cus­tomers

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