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Lucombe oak

In 1846 - when it was a large, 73 year old tree - Kew's Lucombe oak was moved 20 m south to make way for the creation of Syon Vista, one of the avenues radiating out from the Palm House.

Leaves of the Lucombe oak

About Kew's Lucombe oak

This is a fine, large tree, almost as old as the trees planted in the Gardens' first years – the 'Old Lions'. It was planted just nine years after them.

The oak was originally planted 20 m north of its current location, but in 1846 - when it was already a large, 73 year old tree - it was moved to make way for the creation of Syon Vista, one of the avenues radiating out from the Palm House.

Moving the tree would have been a major operation. We believe a sloping trench was dug from its old to present location. With the root ball prepared to preserve as much of the root system as possible, it would have been dragged up the slope by a horse or ox team and earth built up around it, forming the mound it sits on today.

Take a closer look

  • The Lucombe oak is very similar to the Turkey oak so it can be hard to tell them apart. Both have mossy acorn cups and pointy lobes to their leaves.
  • A giveaway difference is that Lucombe oaks – as long as the weather is not too harsh – retain their leaves right through the winter and only drop them just before new growth appears, just like their other parent, the cork oak (Quercus suber).
     

Tree biology

Turkey and cork oaks both grow wild in southwestern Europe. Where they grow together, this hybrid often forms naturally. Lucombe recognised this and encouraged the process in his nursery.

Lucombe oaks produce fertile acorns but if these are grown, characteristics such as bark thickness and leaf retention vary. True Lucombe oaks are clones of the original hybrids and these, together with 'back crosses', are common in ornamental plantings in east Devon, where Lucombe himself lived and worked.

Cultivation and uses

Lucombe oaks tend to be ornamental plantings only.

William Lucombe liked his oak so much that he felled his original tree in 1785 so he would have the timber to make his coffin. He stored the boards under his bed, but lived to such a ripe age of 102 that when the time came, his timber had already rotted beyond use. Another Lucombe oak was felled and used instead.

Quick facts

  • Scientific name: Quercus x hispanica 'Lucombeana'
  • Family: Fagaceae
  • Place of origin: This is a naturally occurring hybrid of Turkey oaks and cork oaks. It is found throughout southern Europe and was first noted by William Lucombe, an Exeter nurseryman, in the 1760s.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern
  • Date planted: 1773
  • Height: 21.5 m