The Lucombe oak is a very special type of oak in so many ways. It is a semi-evergreen which in itself is unusual as most trees are either deciduous or evergreen. The reason it is semi-evergreen is because it's parent trees are two very different types of oak. The Turkey oak is deciduous and the Cork oak is evergreen. This was discovered by William Lucombe who was a horticulturalist and nurseryman of Exeter. His love and study of oak trees led him to discover these natural hybrids and they were named Lucombe oak. They are also sometimes know as the Exeter oak. Thankfully Lucombe oaks are quite easy to find throughout Exeter. The corky bark is probably the most stunning feature and helps to identify this more easily.
As Lucombe oak is a natural hybrid of two very different trees the features and characteristics can be quite different between trees. The corky bark remains a constant and distinct feature which it inheritied from Cork oak. The height of the tree can exceed 25m and the branches on older trees can be quite chunky. As it is semi-evergreen in nature it can mean that some years it will shed its leaves and some years it will retain them. During my 12 month study of Lucombe oak there have always been leaves on the tree but that could be very different in the following years.
Around April time the flowers are present.
The canopy of mature Lucombe oaks is a real spectacle to see
The leaves are typically dark and shiny and are usually 10-12 cm long. The underside is a dull light green and fairly smooth to the touch. They have the characteristic oak shaped leaves but are not as deeply cut as other oaks. If you look closely each lobe has a small spine at the tip. The terminal buds share the same style as Turkey oak with the hairy looking tips.
The buds are brownish and ovate-shaped. The terminal bud usually has brown whiskers
The leaves are typically dark and shiny and are usually 10-12 cm long
Like all oak trees the flowering is monoecious in nature which means both the male and female flowers are on the same tree but different parts. During April the male flowers (catkins) are present and they really stand out on a windy day. The female flowers on the other hand are harder to spot as they are often hidden by the male flowers and leaves. The female flowers start off as small red spiky cups which mature into acorns over two years. The acorns have hairy cups which is the same as Turkey oak. The flowers are wind pollinated and the fruit (acorns) are typically dispersed by birds and small mammals.
The bark is thick and corky and a mixture of light grey and brown
The acorns really stand out with their mossy cups
The tree was discovered and culviated by William Lucombe in 1762 and was soon planted across Exeter and other other parts of the UK. Interestingly William had planks of wood made from one of his Lucombe oaks whilst he was alive for his coffin. However, the planks rotted before they could be used for the coffin and wood from another Lucombe oak was used.