Oak Trees & Their History

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The mighty oak tree signifies power, strength and a willingness to survive. From Abraham Lincoln to Greek mythology, oak trees have found a longstanding place in history through the years. More than 600 species of oak have been discovered, and the massive trees continue to beautify the landscape. Oak trees are generally categorized into two main species, white and red oaks.

White Oaks

  • White oaks are found in the more Eastern areas of the United States. Their massive structures can grow up to 150 feet in height, and shed acorn seeds before the winter season. On average, most seeds die with the onset of colder weather. The leaves tend to be a shiny green before changing into a violet color and shedding from the tree. The white oak holds onto its leaves throughout the winter, dropping them only when new buds appear. Like most oak trees, white oaks begin acorn seed production between 20 and 50 years of age.

Red Oaks

  • Red oak trees grow up to 80 feet on average and consist of a deeper root system. The red oak species is a more colorful tree, ranging from pink in spring, green in summer and violet in the winter months. Red oaks grow at a more rapid rate--some growing as fast as 2 feet per year. Red oaks are found in the Eastern and Midwestern areas of the United States.

Function

  • Several hundred varieties of oak trees have been discovered over the past few centuries. Many oaks grow wild, while others are used for landscaping and shade trees. Pin oaks and the northern red oak are grown for use in garden decoration. Many of the oak species change to brilliant fall colors before shedding their leaves, creating a more beautiful array of scenery. Wood flooring and furniture are made mainly from red and white oak trees.

History

  • Greek mythology believed that a nature spirit in the form of a beautiful woman lived in an oak tree. The Greeks called the spirit, which lived only as long as the tree, Dryads. The name stems from the term "drys," meaning oak. In the Bible, Joshua erects a stone under an oak tree, establishing a covenant between the Israelites and the Lord. In 1808, Abraham Lincoln's father bought Sinking Spring Farm with a white oak bordering the edge of the property, thus creating its place in history.

Significance

  • Throughout history, monarchs, Greeks, Romans and many other cultures revered the oak tree. Some believed that the tree was sacred to the gods. Kings wore oak leaf crowns, Druids worshipped in oak groves and Christians use the tree as a symbol of strength in several Bible passages. English Tudor homes were built with the wood of the oak, and the British Royal Navy used the timber in the making of many of their vessels.

References

  • Photo Credit tree - oak image by Anna Kowalczyk from Fotolia.com Oak Tree image by efacade from Fotolia.com autumns color image by James Lemmon from Fotolia.com
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