The oak is one of the many types of trees found in deciduous forests. Deciduous means ‘tending to fall off’ or ‘falling off at maturity’. This directly refers to the trees that grow in this climate, which seasonally lose their leaves. During summer and autumn, the trees are beautiful and colorful, and during winter, they wither away leaving mostly bare branches.
The falling off or shedding of leaves, flowers, and fruit is a natural process that follows any aspect of these plants (and some animals), once those parts are no longer useful. Therefore, these parts leave their host (tree) once their purpose has been fulfilled.
The reason the oak sheds its leaves during the winter is to save energy, which would otherwise be wasted on unnecessary parts of the tree.
One of the key features of the oak tree is that it is so adaptable it can survive even in areas with poor growth factors, like light, water, and nutrition.
During fires that occur in these areas the top seedlings and saplings of the oak tree, get destroyed. However, the tree is able to form new seedlings as quickly as within a year, and then they continue to grow rather fast.
Sometimes large oak trees appear dead for years. In fact, they are not so, eventually appearing with new growth.
The tree’s thick solid bark is its armor. It protects the tree from the harsh heat of fires, and therefore the fire does only minimal damage.
The oak tree has an amazing root system that allows it to withstand the harsh winters and lack of water. It has a taproot that burrows deep into the earth, sometimes as much as six feet during its first year.
Acorns establish their root system even before they appear on the surface of the earth.
While the taproot goes down several feet, the tree also has a huge lateral root system that spreads up to about 90 feet from its trunk. During heavy winds, this system anchors the tree and does not let it fall.
In times when the oak tree has to grow in shallow soil, its lateral roots only grow about 1 foot below the surface. On normal occasions, the lateral roots grow in the first 3 feet of the soil’s surface.
One of the best adaptations of the oak tree to its dry conditions is its ability to survive without water. Even with about 2 days of water during the summer, a tree can survive an entire year.
If the tree receives too much water, it develops a disease called ‘root collar rot’, which as the name suggests is the rotting of its main root.
As for fertilizer, the tree itself provides that naturally every time its leaves fall. So the leaves do not cost the tree extra energy, but give the tree the extra energy by falling down.
Another excellent adaptation of the oak tree is its acorns. They have a high germination rate (up to about 75% - 90%), and begin germination almost immediately after falling from the tree.
The tree produces acorns as much as it germinates, with a solid crop almost every 2 to 4 years. At times the tree does not produce any acorns, which is believed to be the trees’ way of keeping seed eating mammals like squirrels away, so that the acorns can germinate without being eaten.