The velani oak18 March 2021
The velani oak (Quercus ithaburensis or Quercus aegilops) is a tree of the Fagaceae family. It owes its name to the cups of its acorns, the velaneds, used in tannery and dyeing.
A tree with subpersistent foliage*, the velani oak measures 5 to 25 meters in height with a wingspan of up to 24 meters. It has a massive trunk with an almost smooth or slightly cracked bark. The leaves of the velani oak, frequently arranged in dense clusters at the end of the twigs, are slightly leathery and 4 to 14 cm long. At bud break, its leaves are tomentose (yellowish hairs) on both sides. The acorns of the velani oak, 2.5 to 4 cm long by 1.5 to 3 cm, are housed in cupules bristling with large and thick scales, the length of which varies between 1.6 and 2 cm. This last characteristic gives the cups a “hairy” appearance.
Geographical distribution of velani oak
The natural range of the velani oak extends from Italy to Turkey, passing through the southern Balkans (Albania, Greece, southern former Yugoslavia) and the Aegean islands, including Crete.
Use of velani oak
The wood of Velani oak, robust and hard, was used in particular as marine wood. Its cups, velaneds, very rich in tannin, have long been used for dyeing wool fibers and tanning leather.
Special features of velani oak
The velani oak is one of the first oak species to be domesticated by humans.In addition to its cups, from which an excellent quality tan was obtained, its acorns, which were particularly rich in nutrients, were used for animal feed.The exploitation of the velani oak has certainly favored the dispersal of the species in the islands of the Mediterranean Sea such as Cyprus, Crete or Sicily.
A velani oak of remarkable age and dimensions was presented at the 2020 edition of the European Tree of the Year.
The velani oak from Tricase (Apulia, Italy) is the oldest tree in the Salento peninsula. Its age is estimated at 700 years for 700 square meters of dense foliage and a trunk of 4.25 meters. Over the generations, the tree has been at the heart of many legends which have earned it the nickname “Oak of the Hundred Knights”.
* Late fall of foliage in winter or spring, depending on the climate.
Visual 1: Botanical plate © D.R.
Visual 2: Velani oak from Tricase © Tree of the year
Visual 3: Acorn of the velani oak © D.R.