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(Quercus), a genus of deciduous or evergreen trees; more rarely, shrubs of the family Fagaceae. The leaves are alternate, simple, feathered, lobed, or dentate, and sometimes entire. The flowers are small, opaque, unisexual, and monoecious. The stamens are on long, hanging catkins, and the pistils occur singly or in small bunches and are either sessile or on a peduncle. The fruit is a monospermous acorn that is often enclosed in a cuplike woody hull.
Oaks grow slowly, increasing in height for the first 80 years, and later, in circumference. They usually form a deep root system and send out numerous shoots from the stump. They need much light. Some species are quite drought-resistant and can endure severe winters and poor soil. Oaks begin to produce seeds at age 15-60 (earlier in open areas than in thickets). They reproduce chiefly by means of acorns. For planting, acorns gathered during the year of planting are used, since their ability to germinate quickly decreases. There are approximately 450 species of oak distributed in temperate, subtropical, and tropical zones of the northern hemisphere. In the USSR there are 20 wild species (according to other data, 11), which are found in the European USSR, the Far East, and the Caucasus, and there are 43 cultivated species.
In the Soviet Union the most important commercial oak is the pedunculate oak (Q. robur), which is 40-50 m high and 1-1.5 m in diameter. Its leaves are elongated and have an inverted egg shape, with five to seven pairs of short lobes, and they occur on petioles up to 1 cm long. The acorns occur singly or in bunches of up to three on peduncles. Beginning at age 40-60, the pedunculate oak flowers once a year, at the time of leaf formation. Fruit-bearing is abundant every four to eight years. With shade from the side, the tree grows quite rapidly, but it needs good overhead light. It lives 400-1,000 years. The pedunculate oak is found throughout the European USSR, in the Caucasus, and in most of Western Europe. In northern regions it grows chiefly in river valleys, but farther south it is found in watersheds and forms mixed forests with spruce. In southern regions there are oak groves. Oaks are found on the steppes in ravines and gullies. One of the basic varieties of timber in the broad-leaved forests of the USSR, the pedunculate oak is very similar to the sessile oak (Q. petraea), which has almost sessile acorns in bunches of two or three. The sessile oak is found in the western part of European Russia, the Crimea, and the northern Caucasus.
The Iberian oak (Q. iberica) is found in the eastern part of the northern Caucasus and in Transcaucasia. It has leathery leaves and sessile acorns that occur singly or in pairs. In the high mountains of the same region grows the Q. macranthera, which sends out thick shoots and has sessile acorns, which sometimes grow on short stems. The most common valley oak in eastern Transcaucasia is the long-stemmed oak (Q. longipes). An important timber variety in the Far East is the Mongolian oak (Q. mongolica), a frost- and drought-resistant tree.
The wood of the oak is very durable, hard, and longlasting, and it has a beautiful texture, with a pattern on the cross section. Because it does not rot, it is used to build ships and underwater installations. Oak is also used in railroad cars, furniture, cabinetry and coopery, and in house building. The bark of some varieties is used for cork (cork oak—Q. suber). The bark and wood contain tanning substances, which are used for tanning hides. The dried bark of young branches and slender trunks of Q. robur is used as a binder in an aqueous solution that is used as a rinse in treating inflammations of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx and as a moistener for treating burns. The acorns are processed into imitation coffee and feed for swine and certain other agricultural animals. Many species of oak, such as chestnut-leaved oak (Q. castaneifolia), are cultivated in gardens and parks as decorative plants.
REFERENCESFlora SSSR, vol. 5. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.
Derev’ia i kustarniki SSSR, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.
Menitskii, Iu. L. “Obzor roburoidnykh i gallifernykh dubov Kavkaza.” In Novosti sistematiki vysshikh rastenii. Leningrad, 1968.
Camus,A. Les Chênes: Monographie du genre Quercus, vols. 1-3. (Atlas.) Paris, 1934-48.
S. K. CHEREPANOV
What does it mean when you dream about an oak?
The sturdy and majestic oak tree represents stability, steadfastness, truth, tolerance, and wisdom. Psychologically, persons who identify with this symbol are seen to embody these qualities in their character. Commercially, the symbol of the oak tree is frequently used as a logo, implying strength and stability in business practices or civic pursuits.