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Kermes Oak

24 August 2020

Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), also known as Garrigues (scrublands) oak, belongs to the Fagaceae family. Its Latin name comes from the cochineal Kermes vermilio which parasitizes the oak. This cochineal was before used to make a scarlet red dye.


Persistent foliage tree, Kermes oak usually takes the form of a buissonnant and suckering shrub having a height of 0,25 to 1,5 meters or more rarely takes the form of a small tree having a height of 4 to 7 meters. Its trunk is twisted and highly branched. Its leaves are small and very thorny. They persist 2 or 3 years. Acorns are housed in cupulas with scales looking like rigid tips.


Natural area of geographic dispersion


Its natural area of geographic dispersion extends in the Mediterranean Sea area: Albania, Algeria, Cyprus, Crimean Peninsula, Croatia, Spain, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Portugal, Slovenia, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

In metropolitan France, Kermes oak is found in Occitania and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions from sea level to 1000 meters altitude. Kermes oak is mainly found in the Massif des Calanques at Marseille and in forests in the Bouches-du-Rhône as the forest of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire.


Uses of Kermes oak


Its wood, very hard, is an excellent fuel (charcoal). Kermes oak is also used for tanning because its roots bark are very rich in tannins.


Kermes oak particularities


Kermes oak is a typical Provencal scrublands species with juniper, jasmine and aphyllanthes. Very well adapted to arid conditions, Kermes oak forms dense and impenetrable thickets deserted by fauna because of its thorny leaves. This type of vegetation favours the propagation of fires. However, thanks to its suckering stump, it will quickly regrow after fires.



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