Tree to 20–40 m with a trunk up to 1.5–2 m dbh. Habit conical at first, later rounded, with a dense crown. Bark mauve-grey, deeply furrowed with reddish-brown or orange bark fissures between thick, rugged plates. Shoots greyish, olive green, yellowish green or brownish, more or less pubescent, with whitish lenticels. Buds concentrated at tips of twigs, ovoid, hairy, typically surrounded by long twisted whiskers or linear stipules, 1–2.5 cm long. Leaves deciduous or tardily deciduous, turning yellow to gold in late autumn, dropping at the end of autumn or persisting in the crown until next spring, especially on young trees. Leaf blade varies in size and shape on the same tree, oblong or oblong-elliptical, rarely oval or oval-oblong, 5–15(18) cm × 3–5.5(8) cm; base attenuated or asymmetrically rounded to slightly heart-shaped, apex attenuated, margin with 4 to 9 pairs of uneven lobes, entire or lobed, acute or vaguely obtuse, ending in a short mucro; widest in the middle of the blade; depth of lobes variable, sometimes almost reaching the midrib, sinuses always angular. On emerging, leaves are greyish or whitish on both surfaces with stellate trichomes, upper surface becoming dark green with sparse pubescence, lower surface with persistent greyish or yellowish tomentum, tardily glabrous or with tomentum persisting only on the veins; principal veins sometimes reddish, midrib prominent on both surfaces; 6 to 10 secondary veins, prominent below and slightly sinuous, with some intercalary veins. Petiole tomentose, 0.3–2.5 cm long. Cupules hemispherical or cup-shaped, 1–1.5 cm deep × 2–3 cm wide, enclosing one to two thirds of the acorn, covered in slender linear scales with greyish tomentum, curved, spreading, reflexed, 0.5–2 cm long, scales at edge of cupule forming a fringe. Acorns oblong to cylindrical or ellipsoid, finely striped, reddish brown, 2–5 cm long × 1.2–2.2 cm wide (those of eastern provenance are larger), borne singly or in pairs on a short stalk (0,5–2 cm long), apex slightly truncated, rarely rounded, mucronate and silky, ripening in the second year. (le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010; de Rigo et al. 2016)
Distribution Afghanistan Albania Austria Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Czechia France Southeast Greece Hungary Italy including Sicily Lebanon North Macedonia Romania Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Switzerland Syria Turkey
Habitat Woodlands and forests, sea level to 1900 m altitude, on a wide range of soils, including sandy and rocky soils; indifferent to pH but rarely found on limestone; grows in association with Castanea sativa, Quercus frainetto, Q. robur, Q. infectoria, Q. petraea, Q. pubescens, Ostrya carpinifolia, Fraxinus ornus, Celtis australis, Cotinus coggygria, Acer monspessulanum, A. campestre, A. platanoides, Carpinus betulus, C. orientalis, Fagus sylvatica, Tilia tomentosa, T. platyphyllos, Ulmus minor, Sorbus aria, S. aucuparia, Corylus colurna, Juniperus communis, J. oxycedrus, Paliurus spina-christi, Cornus mas, C. sanguinea, Abies alba, and Rhododendron ponticum.
USDA Hardiness Zone 5
RHS Hardiness Rating H7
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note Quercus cerris is a very variable and widely distributed species and many infraspecific taxa have been described. Linnaeus described it from a specimen with very deeply cut leaves. This was said to come from Spain where the species is not native and likely derived from a cultivated plant (Vereecke 2020). Q. austriaca Willd. was described from a specimen collected in Austria with shallowly lobed leaves and was said to occur in C and SE Europe. In fact, this is the most commonly seen and grown variant of the species. Q. tournefortii Willd. was described from Armenia as having deeply lobed leaves white tomentose beneath. Currently no infraspecific taxa are accepted for this species (Govaerts et al. 2021).
Turkey Oak is a large, fast-growing tree. According to Hillier and Lancaster (2014) it is possibly the fastest-growing oak in the British Isles and is excellent on chalky soils and in maritime exposure, worth planting where shelter is needed quickly. It soon develops a strong tap root that contributes to this excellent growth rate but makes transplanting difficult. It is often used successfully as a root stock for grafting section Cerris cultivars, especially those of Q. × crenata, but in these cases it appears to develop a weak root system (le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010). Of little value as a timber tree, being much inferior to Q. robur, it nevertheless has advantages as a purely ornamental tree, due to its quicker growth and elegant form (Bean 1976). Quercus cerris tends to have a straighter trunk than Q. robur, and its straight and vigorous branches take a more upright direction; its branches and twigs lack the tortuous character of Q. robur (Loudon 1844).
One drawback is that it is one of the alternate hosts of the knopper gall wasp (Andricus quercuscalicis) which infects Q. robur causing it to produce deformed acorns and reducing the seed crop where both species are grown. Savill (2019) states that ‘it is probably better removed from British woodlands than encouraged in them,’ but in the light of the current drive for carbon-capture by trees this should be reconsidered, as it is fast-growing and its wood is 100kg/m3 denser than that of Quercus robur or Q. petraea (Savill 2019).
It was certainly in cultivation in the British Isles by 1740, but may have been introduced some time before that. By the second half of the eighteenth century is was widely planted in the south and south-west of England (Elwes & Henry 1906–1913). The UK and Ireland champion for girth is at Shute House, Devon, England, with a dbh of 2.9 m (at 1.2 m) and a height of 33 m. At Knightshayes, in the same county, eleven Q. cerris have exceeded 30 m in height, including the UK and Ireland champion for height (41.2 m × 1.81 m in 2017). The second tallest at Knightshayes was described by Bean (1976) as ‘perhaps the finest example of Turkey oak in Britain.’ Due to its huge crown with a slight bias, most historic heights were exaggerated: it measured 36 m × 2.75 m in 2016. The runner up for height in UK and Ireland grows at Beechwood House, West Sussex, England; planted about 1830, it measured 39.5 m × 2.26 m in 2017 (Tree Register 2021). That the largest in Britain are all in the south is not unusual, but Q. cerris is a remarkably hardy and tough tree; others of considerable size may be found throughout the UK as far north as the Scottish Highlands. Alan Mitchell noted four of 30 m or more in the Dell at Brahan, Easter Ross, and recommended the species for city parks due to its tolerance of air pollution (Mitchell 1996).
Large specimens have also been recorded in Europe: a tree near Pastuh, Bulgaria has an estimated dbh in excess of 2.5 m; at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, a Q. cerris had reached 35.2 m in 2011; a tree planted about 1868 in Rhederoord, De Steeg, Gelderland, Netherlands, measured 29.6 m × 1.53 m dbh in 2014; and at the Jardin Botanique de l’Arquebuse, Dijon, France, a tree planted about 1835 measured 28 m (2012) × 0.45 m (2011) (monumentaltrees.com 2018).
In North America this species should not be confused with what is known locally as Turkey Oak (Q. laevis), so named because the leaf outline resembles the fowl’s footprint. Though generally not available commercially in the United States (Missouri Botanical Garden 2020), Q. cerris is found in collections on both coasts and in the Midwest. The tallest recorded specimen, currently in decline, is at Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Ohio, and at its peak measured 27.4 m × 1.19 m dbh (The Spring Grove Family 2020). According to the Native Plant Trust (2021), the species has naturalized in Washington state and Massachusetts.
In Australia, a tree at Murrurundi in New South Wales planted in 1890 measured 21 m × 1.6 m dbh in 2014 (National Register of Big Trees 2021). A taller tree is recorded in New Zealand, planted c. 1863, measuring 24 × 1.5 m in 2012 (New Zealand Notable Trees Trust 2009). In Argentina, where oaks usually grow faster than in their habitat, Q. cerris has shown remarkable growth rates: trees in Grigadale Arboretum have reached 17 m in 25 years (Grigadale Arboretum 2020).
Quercus cerris hybridizes with other sympatric section Cerris species, such as Q. suber (= Q. × crenata, q.v.), Q. trojana (= Q. × schneideri, q.v.) and Q. libani (= Q. × libanerris, q.v., named from a specimen in cultivation but also found in the wild); it also hybridizes readily with section Cerris species in cultivation, notably Q. castaneifolia (q.v.), Q. acutissima (q.v.), Q. variabilis (8 m × 20 cm at Shugborough, Staffordshire, England; 12.5 m at The Holden Arboretum, Ohio, US), and Q. macrolepis (23.4 m × 69 cm at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire, England, the tallest of three specimens) (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1997). A putative hybrid with Q. pubescens (section Quercus) was named by Aimée Camus as Q. × baenitzii, but this is more likely to be a cut-leaved form of Q. pubescens or a different species (Q. kotschyana O. Schwarz, endemic to Lebanon) (Di Pietro et al. 2020).
The epithet derives from the Latin name for the species, cerrus, which may derive from an ancient root meaning ‘hard’ (Moosbach 2020). The name persists in Italian as cerro, a distinct common name for this species, often encountered in place names starting with Cerreto, meaning ‘forest of Q. cerris’ (le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010). Dante mentions a cerro in his Divine Comedy, in a metaphor that refers to its resistance to being uprooted by a strong wind (Cameron 2018), suggesting the poet might have been aware of the tree’s strong tap root. A perhaps surprising offspring of cerrus is the English word ‘charlatan’. In medieval times, false medics roamed throughout Italy selling worthless potions. Many of them were said to come from a village called Cerreto di Spoleto in Umbria, and so were referred to as cerretanos. By association with ciarlare, the Italian word for ‘chatter’, the word shifted to ciarlatano and was later anglicized to ‘charlatan’ (Merriam-Webster.com 2020).
Numerous selections have been made of Turkey Oak, many of which may have a short life in cultivation. Only the most popular or distinct are listed here. The epithet ‘Macedonie’, found in some sources, refers to the origin of the material and was not intended to be a cultivar.
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5
A selection with deeply cut, lace-like, grey-green leaves. Propagated from a plant found near Afyon, central Turkey by Dirk Benoit and Eike Jablonski in 2002 (Coombes & Jablonski 2006).
Quercus cerris 'Variegata'
Leaves bordered by a band of varying width, yellow when young becoming white, which penetrates here and there to the midrib. A rather effective variegated tree. Reversions to green foliage occur frequently and these should be cut out. A magnificent tree grows at Inverewe Garden in north west Scotland (9 m × 55 cm in 2013) and perhaps the finest specimen in the British Isles is to be found at Wynkcoome Arboretum, an attractive wide-spreading tree that measured 9 m × 34 cm in 2017. Two taller specimens are recorded in England at Combe House Hotel, Devon and Ford Abbey, Dorset, but they have mostly reverted (Tree Register 2021).
The identity of ‘Variegata’ is uncertain. It was described by Loudon (1838) who stated that it ‘only differs from the species in having the leaves variegated.’ Elwes & Henry (1906–1913) described it as having ‘[l]eaves variegated with white blotches’ and stated that it was ‘said to have originated as a sport at Woburn Abbey, where good specimens of it are now growing.’ It is possible that it is identical to what is now called ‘Argenteovariegata’, which although a later name is now well established for this selection. Plants grown as ‘Variegata’ are likely to be ‘Argenteovariegata’.
The epithet means ‘silver-variegated’, from Latin argentum = silver.
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5
Leaves grey-green, pink when young, the lobing variable but often reaching 4/5 of the way to the midrib, the lobes rounded at the tip and often with one or two small lobes on their sides. From André Charlier, Closerie du Rond-Chêne, Esneux, Belgium grown at Arboretum Robert Lenoir (Rendeux) and sent from there to Wespelaar and other collections. A collection from near the Temple of Athena, Assos, Turkey. Unpublished. (The Oak Name Checklist 2020)
A form of narrow, upright habit. Raised by Josef Bolte, Paderborn, Germany from seed collected at Kassel in 1998. The original tree was 5 m tall with a spread of 1 m in 2005 (Coombes & Jablonski 2006).
A very slow-growing form making a shrub or small tree with dark green congested and wavy-edged leaves. Leaves 8–12 cm long by 2–4 cm wide, upper surface shiny, underside dull green and rugged; very slow growth (le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010). Raised at the nursery of M.M. Bömer, Zundert, Netherlands in about 1989, where the original plant was 1.5 m tall in 2005 (Oak Names Database 2021).
Q. cerris var. laciniata Loudon
Q. cerris f. laciniata (Loudon) C.K. Schneid.
A tree in Stokesay Court, Shropshire, England, very cut-leaved, reached 26 m × 1.27 m in 2009. A specimen at Kew measured 20 m × 1.29 m (2001). At Sir Harold Hillier Gardens the taller of two trees measured 22.4 m × 57 cm (2012) (Tree Register 2020).
According to van Hoey Smith (2001), this form with deeply cut leaves is found in the wild in Turkey, is always uniform, and comes true from seed.
The epithet derives from Latin lacinia = fringe of garment or strip of cloth, from the same root as ‘lacerate’ (to tear or rend roughly).
Quercus cerris 'Aureomarmorata'
Quercus cerris 'Marmorata'
Leaves mottled and flecked pale green and yellow-green. The plant at Trompenburg Arboretum, Netherlands was 10 m tall in 2005. It was propagated c. 1965 from the original at Strypemonde, Rockanje, Netherlands (Coombes & Jablonski 2006; van Hoey Smith 2001).
Large specimens grow at Wynkcoombe Hill, West Sussex, England (13 m × 87 cm, 2017) and Bute Park Arboretum, Glamorgan, Wales (13 m × 74 cm 2013) (The Tree Register 2020).
The epithet derives from the Latin marmor = marble, in reference to the marble-like mottling of the leaf. Marmor is also the German word for marble.
Quercus cerris MARVELLOUS
Sold under the name ‘Marvellous’. Vigorous with a broadly conical crown, later spreading. Its regular form makes it suitable for lanes, wide green borders, and verges. Selected by nursery Mari van Els, Landhorst, The Netherlands before 2002 and distributed by 2012 (Jablonski & Russell 2018).
Leaves cut to the midrib with widely spaced, slender, and taper-pointed lobes, the larger ones themselves toothed. Raised at M.M. Bömer, Zundert, Netherlands, where the original plant, then about 17 years old, was 5 m tall with a spread of 2.5 m in 2005 (Oak Names Database 2021). It is included in Laciniata Group.
Q. austriaca Willd
In this variety, said to be prevalent in south-eastern Europe, the leaves are edged with regular, entire, triangular lobes, and are greyer beneath than in the typical state.
Quercus cerris 'Waasland Dwarf'
A small, bushy tree with a compact, oval head. Leaves oblanceolate, shallowly lobed. Raised at Arboretum Waasland by Michel Decalut, the original tree was 8 m tall in 2005 (Coombes & Jablonski 2006).
Specimens grow at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (1.5 m × 1.4 cm, 2013 and 1.7 m × 2 cm, 2012) (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 1997).
A vigorous form with large, dark green leaves to 15 cm long, 4–7 cm wide and deeply cut almost to the midrib. Lobes broad, the larger ones lobed at the tip. New leaves emerge slightly yellow. Selected by M.M. Bömer, Zundert, Netherlands in 1998 (le Hardÿ de Beaulieu & Lamant 2010). It is included in Laciniata Group.
A tree at Thenford House, Northamptonshire, England, measured 12 m × 87 cm in 2019 (Tree Register 2020).
The epithet is the name of the Germanic chief god, also rendered as Odin or Woden.