Pedro Nuno Teixeira Santos, writer of the Portuguese a sombre verda weblog, sent in today’s photograph (either taken by himself or his friend, Miguel Rodrigues). The weblog is “…dedicated among other things, to show some of the larger and oldest trees of Portugal.”, and this particular photo is part of a posting entitled “(Probably) the world’s most beautiful holm oak”. A few facts and figures shared by Pedro: the trunk has a circumference of 3.91m and the diameter of the tree’s crown measures almost 25m. Thank you for sharing, Pedro.
In English, Quercus ilex is often commonly known as holm oak, holly oak or evergreen oak. It is native to Mediterranean Europe (including Turkey) and Africa.
The specific epithet for this oak, ilex, is also the scientific name for the holly genus (Ilex spp.). As noted by Wikipedia, the leaves on lower branches of the holm oak are toothed or somewhat spiny, resembling the leaves of Ilex aquifolium (European holly) — hence the association.
The Plants for a Future Database details the economic uses of Quercus ilex, with one glaring omission: truffle production. A relatively recent agricultural alternative, orchards of Quercus ilex are being grown to produce Tuber melanosporum, the black truffle. This new development (which is increasing forest cover) is summarized in the abstract of a 2006 paper, “Cultivation of black truffle to promote reforestation and land-use stability”.