Quercus rotundifolia Lam., often treated as a variety of this species (as Quercus ilex var. ballota (Desf.) A.DC.), is treated here as a distinct species.
Quercus alpina Endl.
Quercus ballota grandifolia Colmeiro
Quercus ballota obovatifolia Colmeiro
Quercus bellota Colmeiro & E.Boutelou
Quercus castellana Poir.
Quercus cookii Loudon
Quercus crispa K.Koch
Quercus cyclophylla Welw. ex Nyman
Quercus expansa Poir.
Quercus fagifolia K.Koch
Quercus fordii (Loudon) Carr
Quercus glauca Martrin-Donos & Timb.-Lagr.
Quercus gracilis Lange
Quercus gramuntia L.
Quercus ilicifolia Salisb.
Quercus integrifolia Steud.
Quercus laurei Coutange
Quercus marcetii Pau
Quercus mixta Reyn.
Quercus montserratensis (Svent. & Marcet) Svent. & Marcet
Quercus murbeckii Sennen
Quercus oblonga K.Koch
Quercus prasina Pers.
Quercus pseudoilex Chatin
Quercus rotundifolia expansa (Poir.) F.M.Vázquez
Quercus sempervirens Mill.
Quercus sinuata Martrin-Donos & Timb.-Lagr.
Quercus smilax L.
Quercus variifolia Sweet
Common Name: Holly Oak
Quercus ilex is an evergreen tree with a broad, domed canopy of ascending branches; it usually grows up to 25 metres tall, occasionally reaching 30 metres. The often short bole can sometimes exceed 200cm in diameter[
The tree is harvested from the wild for mainly local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. It is often managed, especially in Iberia, for the production of acorns which have been used as a staple food in the past. It is also sometimes grown as a coppice in managed woodlands, the wood being mainly used for fuel and charcoal[
]. The tree is grown in large gardens and parks as an ornamental shade tree and can be trimmed and used as large hedges.
All parts of the plant contain tannins. Whilst tannins are found in many foods, and have a range of medicinal uses. They are usually only present in low concentrations. In some foods made from oaks (particularly the seeds), the tannin content can be quite high unless the food is treated to reduce tannin content.
Tannins are only of low toxicity and, because of their bitter taste and astringency, are unlikely to be eaten in large quantities. However, if they are taken in excess, they can cause stomach pains; constipation followed by bloody diarrhoea: excessive thirst; and excessive urination[
Most of the Mediterranean region, excluding Egypt.
Often growing as the dominant species in arid places, maquis, woods and hills on limestone; at elevations up to 1,800 metres in Europe, but to 2,900 metres in N. Africa[
|Cultivated, Ornamental, Semi-cultivated, Wild
Quercus ilex is a somewhat cold-hardy tree, generally tolerating temperatures down to around -15°c (it is reported as having survived a short period down to -15°c[
]) when dormant so long as it is not also wet. It grows best in areas with hot summers, especially Mediterranean climates with their mild winters and hot dry summers. It can also succeed in moist, maritime climates so long as the winters are mild[
Succeeds in full sun or moderate shade[
], though young plants tolerate reasonable levels of side shade and can grow in quite dense forest shde[
]. Tolerates a wide range of soils, though it prefers a good deep fertile loam which can be on the stiff side[
]. Thrives on shallow chalky soils[
]. Succeeds in all soils except those that are cold and poorly drained[
]. Grows well in sandy soils[
]. Very resistant to maritime exposure[
]. Established plants are drought tolerant[
A very ornamental tree, it can be used to provide shade[
Trees are quite slow-growing, though they can live for more than 1,000 years[
The plant responds well to coppicing and pollarding[
Transplants badly unless moved regularly and this should be done as growth commences in late May or in September[
The plant usually produces heavy crops of acorns once every 4 - 6 yeas with lower production in the intervening years[
]. It often fruits very freely in Britain[
]. The seed ripens in its first year[
Hybridizes freely with other members of the genus[
This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[
Seed - raw or cooked[
]. It can be sweet or bitter[
]. The seed can be 20 - 35mm long[
The seed is usually cooked before eating, though it can also be eaten raw. It can be eaten whole, though it is more commonly dried, then ground into a powder and used as a thickening in stews etc or mixed with cereals for making bread.
In some species, especially many of those classified as 'white oaks', the seeds are low in tannins and have a more or less sweet and agreeable flavour. The seed of most species, however, have a very bitter flavour, due especially to the presence of tannins. In these species there are various processes that can remove or at least reduce the amount of these bitter substances (although other water-soluble substances, including some minerals, will also be removed).
Tannins are water-soluble and therefore the easiest way to remove or reduce tannin levels is by soaking in water. A few different methods are listed:-
A traditional method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy ground overwinter and allow the wet soil to gradually leach the tannins. The germinating seed was dug up in the spring when it would have lost most of its astringency and bitterness.
Another method was to wrap the seeds in a cloth bag and place them in a stream for several weeks.
Drying the seed and grinding it to a powder before soaking speeds up the process. The fastest method is to use hot water, by cooking the powder and changing the water several times until the cooking water is no longer bitter. Alternatively, you can use cold water (which is reported to produce the best quality flour). In this case, you soak the powdered seed in cold water for 12 - 24 hours then discard the water. Repeat this process for a number of times until the soak water is no longer bitter.
The roasted seed of many Quercus species has been used as a coffee substitute.
An edible oil is obtained from the seed[
Quercus (oak) species are used in the traditional medicine of many cultures, being valued especially for their tannins. Various parts of the plant can be used, most frequently it is the leaves, bark, seeds, seed cups or the galls that are produced as a result of insect damage. A decoction or infusion is astringent, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, styptic and haemostatic. It is taken internally to treat conditions such as acute diarrhea, dysentery and haemorrhages. Externally, it is used as a mouthwash to treat toothache or gum problems and is applied topically as a wash on cuts, burns, various skin problems, haemorrhoids and oral, genital and anal mucosa inflammation[
]. Extracts of the plant can be added to ointments and used for the healing of cuts[
Very tolerant of maritime exposure and of trimming, it can be grown as a shelterbelt tree or hedge in maritime areas[
Compared with other oaks, this is fast growing and thus suitable not only for ornamental use but also for afforestation purposes in southern countries with Mediterranean climate[
This is one of several Quercus species which are either cultivated or semi-cultivated in southern France and Italy in order to provide an environment in which to grow truffles[
The leaves of most species in this genus are more or less rich in tannins. A mulch of the partially decayed leaves can be placed around vulnerable plants in order to repel slugs, snails, grubs etc, and these will in time break down to add humus and nutrients to the soil. Fresh leaves should be used with caution, however, since as these decay they utilize some of the nitrogen in the soil and thus can inhibit plant growth[
Oak galls are excrescences that are sometimes produced in great numbers on the tree and are caused by the activity of the larvae of different insects. The insects live inside these galls, obtaining their nutrient therein. When the insect pupates and leaves, the gall can be used as a rich source of tannin, that can also be used as a dyestuff and is also used by many cultures to make ink[
The bark is a rich source of tannins[
]. They can be used as a dyestuff and for waterproofing rope[
]. The bark contains 7.25% tannin[
The heartwood is brownish. The wood is close-grained, very durable, strong, hard and heavy[
]. It warps and twists, but when well seasoned it works admirably, and takes a fine polish[
]. The wood is highly valued for construction, submerged installations, carriage building, furniture, joinery and miscellaneous purposes. Of particular value is the wood of the roots for carpentry[
The wood makes a good fuel, burning well even if green[
], and a good quality charcoal can be produced from it[
Seed - it quickly loses viability if it is allowed to dry out. It can be stored moist and cool overwinter but is best sown as soon as it is ripe in an outdoor seed bed, though it must be protected from mice, squirrels etc. Small quantities of seed can be sown in deep pots in a cold frame. Plants produce a deep taproot and need to be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible, in fact seed sown in situ will produce the best trees[
]. Trees should not be left in a nursery bed for more than 2 growing seasons without being moved or they will transplant very badly.