An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus that is found mainly in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 600 species worldwide consisting of both deciduous and evergreen species. A few are found in the tropical regions of Asia and the Americas. The oaks are subdivided into five groups: the red oaks of the Americas; the white oaks of Europe, Asia, and North America; the Hungarian oak and its relatives of Europe and Asia; the Turkey oak and its relatives of Europe and Asia; and the Canyon Live oak and its relatives of southwestern North America. Most oak trees take hundreds of years to reach maturity. One tree in Windsor is over 800 years old and was planted during the reign of King John. There are others known to be over 1,000 years old. Oak trees can get quite large also, with circumferences over 60 feet, and heights pushing 100 feet, with crown spreads of over a quarter acre in size.
Oaks produce flowering structures called catkins in the spring and a nut called an acorn in the fall. Acorns take 6 to 24 months to mature, depending on the species. Acorns are rich in nutrients containing large amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats as well as the minerals calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, and the vitamin niacin. They also contain tannins, which are bitter to the taste and poisonous to some domestic animals. Many wild animals such as squirrels, deer, bears, and pigs consume large amounts of acorns and birds such as jays, woodpeckers, and turkeys eat their share also. Native American Indians used to gather the acorns in the fall and soak them in water to leach the tannins out, then dried and ground them to make flour.
Oak wood is famous for its great strength and hardness and is especially valued for shipbuilding, flooring, furniture, railroad ties, barrels, tool handles, and veneer. Like the acorn, the wood of the oak is high in tannins, which helps protect it against insect and fungal attacks. The oak tree is considered to be one of the most significant and magnificent trees in the whole world. Transcending times and cultures, the oak has symbolized strength and endurance, and for this reason, it has been chosen as the national tree of the United States, England, and several other countries. Overall the oak tree is a very strong and sturdy wood, and represents many things, including that of the concept of longevity and of wisdom, and is a tree that was truly designed to stand the test of time.
There are spiritual lessons to be learned from the strength and size of the mighty oak. “You should learn to rely upon your own energies and upon your heavenly Father. Youth who have been thrown upon their own resources will generally put forth the effort necessary to develop and invigorate their moral and intellectual energies. There are too many youth like the swaying willows that grow beside the meadow brook. You want to make your life the sturdy oak, springing from hardy soil amid the clefts of the rock. These have battled with the storm and tempest and yet grown into giant proportions. The great men who have done service to our country were not reared in the lap of luxury. Our greatest men are self-made.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 192. “When Solomon should have been in character as a sturdy oak, he fell from his steadfastness under the power of temptation. When his strength should have been the firmest, he was found the weakest of men.
“From such examples as this we should learn that watchfulness and prayer are the only safety for either young or old.” The Retirement Years, 178.
David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.