The pedunculate oak flowers between May and June. Towards the end of summer the acorns begin to ripen, becoming fully ripe by October (2). The acorns are rich in starch and tannins, and are eaten and relied upon by many small mammals and a number of birds. Jays and squirrels are extremely important in dispersing acorns away from the parent trees, as they bury them for later consumption and many of these acorns germinate (3) (4).
Young oak trees are vulnerable to insect predation. They grow very quickly, but after reaching 100 to 200 years of age their rate of growth slows down. After this time, however, they continue to increase in girth (5). The pedunculate oak is a very long-lived species, typically living for up to 500 years, although some oaks are known to be 700 to 1,200 years old (5). The United Kingdom has more ancient oaks than any other country in Western Europe (3).
Acorns were once widely used to feed pigs, and were also ground down to make a substitute for coffee and even a type of bread (5). The acorns of the pedunculate oak are lower in tannins than most, making them more palatable to humans (7). A good crop of acorns was used to predict a good harvest, and a heavy fall of acorns was thought to signal an impending harsh winter (5). Oak Apple Day occurs in England on the 29th of May, and commemorates the return of Charles II to London after exile. During exile, he was hidden inside an oak tree, and he declared that the 29th of May should be set aside as a holiday for 'the dressing of trees'. It is not certain why the day is named after oak apples, the spongy galls caused by parasitic wasps (3).
The scientific name of the pedunculate oak, robur, comes from the Latin for ‘strength’, and refers to this tree’s robust, sturdy nature. The pedunculate oak has long been used for its strong, durable timber and was a mainstay material for construction, boatbuilding and barrels, while its bark has been used in leather tanning (4) (7).