sessile oak leavesLatin name: Quercus petraea

Gaelic name: Darroch

Size: Up to 40m tall

Where: East Loch Lomond; Glen Finglas; Balquhidder Glen; Loch Earn; Little Drum Wood; David Marshall Lodge; the shore of east Loch Lomond at Balmaha to Rowardenan along the route of the West Highland Way; and Inchcailloch

When: All year round

There are actually two native species of oak in the UK – sessile and pedunculate. Sessile means ‘stalkless’ - the acorns grow straight out from the twigs – while pedunculate acorns have little stalks or ‘peduncles’ attaching them to the small branches.

The spectacular oakwoods of the National Park are mainly made up of sessile oak, which seems to prefer conditions in the north and west of the country. They form one of the largest areas of semi-natural woodland in the UK, and are so valuable for wildlife that they have been given European protection as Special Areas of Conservation.

Walk through an oak woodland at any time of year and you will be surrounded by the colours, sounds and smells of its teeming wildlife. Oak trees can support over 500 species of invertebrates – more than any other UK tree species – though many will be hidden out of sight under the bark or in the leaf litter. But you will see the many lichens, mosses and fungi which drape the trees in greys, yellows, greens, oranges, reds and even purples, especially in autumn, the height of the fungi year.

Oaks don’t come into leaf until late in May, so in spring the woodland floor will be awash with wild flowers, scenting the air with their delicate perfumes, taking advantage of the sun before the leaves shade them out. In summer you can hear rarer, visiting birds like redstarts, wood warblers and pied flycatchers joining the dawn chorus of our year-round birds. Even in winter the woodlands provide a refuge for wildlife, sheltering deer and red squirrels, and in a good year providing acorns to keep them going during the lean months.

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Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods