The Lucombe Oak
Quercus x crenata
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Located on the Library Walk, the Lucombe Oak or Quercus × crenata, to give it it’s correct botanical name, is a naturally occurring hybrid oak. It’s parents are Quercus suber (the cork oak), whose range stretches from Western to Central Mediterranean, and Quercus cerris (the Turkey oak), which is found in south-central Europe and Turkey. These ranges intersect in south-eastern France and Italy, where the first naturally occurring hybrids were found.
The Lucombe oak is named after the horticulturalist and nurseryman William Lucombe, who made one of the earliest selections of the tree around 1763 in his nursery in Exeter when he noticed that a seedling of Quercus cerris (introduced to the UK in 1735) kept its leaves in winter.
William Lucombe Senior was so enamored with the original Lucombe oak that would perpetuate his name, that in 1785 he had it felled and cut into boards that were stored under his bed until they could be used to make his coffin. However, Lucombe Senior actually lived to be 102, by which stage the treasured wood had decayed, so another Lucombe oak was felled for his funeral.
William Jackson Bean, noted British botanist and once curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, described it as:
“A handsome and stately tree of a distinct habit when mature, with spreading branches upswept at the ends and swollen at the base.”
The tree was later propagated by grafting onto Quercus cerris stock and widely distributed, to such an extent that the Lucombe oak became a common name for any hybrid oak of the same parentage.
The features of each parent tree are present to varying degrees in the Lucombe hybrid. The bark runs from corrugated to corky and the leaves are evergreen or semi-evergreen.
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