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Oak: durable for 400 years


So one of the best trees for the future of Aotearoa has to be, in my view, the simple oak, Quercus robur. Although it is known as the English oak, I think of it as the European oak because France has kept a vast area of tended natural oak forests - up to 20% of its land area - and it is a huge wood production asset to France. Germany too grows millions of oaks. It is usually grown to ninety years for a good log. All foresters here in New Zealand who are sick and tired of pines (and Eucalypts) blowing down will love a tree that stands up to hurricane force winds with its mighty taproot. In NZ, these European oaks grow just as well as in Europe: straight, strong and sturdy, and with a faster timber rotation of around fifty years.

Oak woods spaced widely at 19 years old near Motueka .

Surely, as imports go, oak forests would make amends for gorse and measles. It's a durable hardwood. Attractive grain. Soil improving. The trees shelter a wide variety of creatures in symbiosis. Wind resistant shelter. Ultra superior firewood. Drought resistant. How many more boxes does Oak have to tick? Druidic powers. Symbol of imperial naval might. Legendary hiding place of countless rebels, kings and runaways.

Oak grows really well on good land. In some ways it is the answer to the protests about "green deserts" replacing farmland. Plant an oak woodland and your pigs will be fed every year with acorns. Your soils will turn to deep fertile leaf compost, full of minerals and organic structure. It forms huge shade trees in summer, but then lets in winter light as well to allow sun on the pasture.

No problem with leaky houses if you use heart oak wood to build with, it won't rot. Like Alder, it self preserves even better when wet than when it is dry. Long lasting and strong, oak buildings with beams from the fifteenth century can be seen in historic towns in Europe, and oak ships from 1200 years ago are partially preserved in wet peat bogs from the Saxon days.

So, we should aim to grow it for longer and produce some decent heartwood. There are stands in England where the old oak trunks quietly grow to size over four hundred years, ready to replace the Medieval Hall roof beams when they need it.

Let's grow lots more of these, maybe one billion trees to start with.

40ft by 2ft Oak beams New College Oxford.
You dont cut them oaks. Thems for the College Hall.

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