Once widespread throughout Ireland, centuries of harvesting, with few trees being replaced, means that truly native oak can be hard to find, though there are small woods in most counties.
Very often, semi-natural oak woodlands contain a proportion of birch and ash, with hazel, holly and rowan scattered throughout the understorey.
Oak has been harvested for its fine timber for centuries and is much prized for its visual qualities and durability. It is commonly used in the making of furniture, for veneers and in the manufacture of casks.
The male flowers of oak are borne on rather inconspicuous catkins, which come out just before the leaves, but the seeds – acorns – are far more obvious.
Oak trees do not produce a good crop every year, so it is worth gathering plenty in a good year.
The pedunculate or English oak is also considered to be a native tree. It is generally associated with heavy lowland soils and can withstand wet soil in winter.
These oak woods are found in Charleville, Co. Offaly and Abbeyleix, Co. Laois.