July 2014: Oak

Common European Oak and European White Oak by Pancrace Bessa
Common European Oak and European White Oak, illustrated by Pancrace Bessa, from The North American Sylva by François André Michaux, 1819

July 2014 library profile:



"Then here's to the oak, the brave old oak,

Who stands in his pride alone!

And still flourish he, a hale green tree,

When a hundred years are gone!

~Henry Fothergill Chorley



Oaks play a key role in our identity here at The Morton Arboretum. They make up a large part of our living collections, and the oak tree is represented in our logo. The white oak, Quercus alba, is the Illinois state tree, and oak conservation in Illinois will be the focus of an upcoming conference at the Arboretum, Sustaining Oaks in the Chicago Wilderness Region. As an important part of our living collections, oaks are also well represented in our library collections. One of our newest books on the subject is Oak by Peter Young, published in 2013. Young explores the oak tree's importance in our society and culture, both through its practical uses in building, development, and historic medicine, as well as its deep connections with superstition, symbolism, and status. The oak is represented countless times in art and poetry. Ancient oak trees are venerated, and stand as symbols of strength and endurance. Young ends with a chapter on conservation, detailing the threats to oaks and steps that can be taken to avoid losing them.



"Forests often have strong links with the past. None more so than Sherwood Forest and its association with Robin Hood. Every year in early December, a week of celebrations is held there for Tree Dressing Day, when some of the ancient oaks are decorated by local children as a mark of respect. All year round thousands of visitors come to see the Mighty Oak, thought to be 800 years old. What events have such trees lived through and survived, even taken part in? They cannot speak, like those in fairy tales, but they are powerful in conveying a definite atmostphere. Above all the oak, even when elderly and supported by crutches, stands out from all other trees in imparting a feeling of sound continuity."

~Peter Young, from Oak p. 188-189


Library resources

As the main focus of The Morton Arboretum, the Sterling Morton Library's collections on trees are extensive. Below is a selection on oak trees.

Oak, by Peter Young 2013

Oak: The Frame of Civilization, by William Bryant Logan 2005

The Natural History of the Oak Tree, by Richard Lewington and David Streeter 1993

The Ecology and Silviculture of Oaks, by Paul S. Johnson, Stephen R. Shifley, and Robert Rogers 2002

Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America, by J. Stein, D. Binion, and R. Acciavatti 2003

Oak: A British History, by Esmond Harris, Jeanette Harris, and N.D.G. James 2003

Oaks of Asia, by Yu. L. Menitsky 2005


Reader's advisory

If interested in North American forests and conservation stories, explore our collection on the American chestnut tree. Also look up our collections on forest conservationtree identification, the natural history of trees, and more!


Click here to see previous Monthly Library Profiles!