Quercus canariensis is a large-leaved, bold tree growing broader than tall. It is typified by arching, thick branches coming off a squat, strong trunk. Medium-sized it is semi-deciduous in cooler climates.
The bark is deeply fissured, and dark greyish brown. It resembles the English Oak (Quercus robur), but is bolder in most parts than the English Oak.
The leaves are 10-15 cm long and 6-8 cm broad, with 6-12 pairs of shallow lobes. The flowers are catkins; the fruit is an acorn 2.5 cm long and 2 cm broad, in a shallow cup. The outstanding feature of the Algerian oak is the spring growth of bright lime green leaves that contrast with the dark colour of the trunk and branches.
Acorns have been consumed by humans since ancient times.*
Classical authors write of the early inhabitants of Greece and southern Europe being fat on the fruits of the oak. They were the Balanophagi, or ‘eaters of acorns’. In pastimes, acorns were collected and ground to meal for flour. The ‘acorn milk’, a by-product of this process, was also drunk. Acorns were gathered for snacking, roasting, boiling or drying to add to meals.
Oak leaves were once used to make wine and even the trunk of the tree has provided an edible source of gum.
*Caution is now given before eating acorns that have not been properly treated – leached of their plant tannins – and eating the nuts raw is not recommended.
Where can the Algerian Oak be seen in the Parklands?
Queens Park, Loch Ave opposite Federation Valley.