|A golden oak tree|
Quercus alnifolia, the golden oak, is an evergreen oak species of Cyprus. Its common English name refers to the golden coloured lower surface of its leaves. Quercus alnifolia belongs to the endemic flora of the island and it is confined to the igneous geological complex of the Troodos Mountains. In February 2006, the parliament of Cyprus selected the golden oak to be the country's national tree.
Quercus alnifolia belongs to section Cerris, as with much of the mediterranean evergreen oak species. Occasional hybridization with kermes oak (Quercus coccifera ssp. calliprinos) has been described.
Its leaves are simple, ovobate to suborbicular, 1,5-6(-10) cm long, 1-5 (-8) cm wide, glabrous and shining dark green above and densely golden or brownish tomentose below, with serrate margins and raised nervation. Leave petioles are strong, 6-10 (-12) mm long and pilose. Flowers are unisexual; male catkins are greenish-yellow forming spreading or pendulous clusters at the tips of the branches; female are axillary, solitary or in groups of 2-3. Acorns are narrowly obovate or subcylindrical, usually tapering towards base, 2-2,5 cm long and 0,8-1,2 cm wide, with a woody endocarp and cupule with strongly recurved scales.
Distribution and habitat
Quercus alnifolia is restricted to Troodos Massif, where it grows on igneous geological substrate at an altitude of 400 to 1800m. It occupies dry habitats in association with Pinus brutia or forms dense maquis in mesic habitats, characterized by deep forest soils.
Ecological importance and conservation status
Golden oak offers soil stabilisation against erosion due to its ability to colonize stony and rocky slopes. In its distribution area, Quercus alnifolia is the most important broadleaved species forming forest stands, while the major part of Cypriot forests are covered by conifers (Pinus brutia). Thick stands of Quercus alnifolia in mesic habitats, considerably modify the humidity conditions of the site and form forest soils with "mull" humus favouring the existence of sciophilous herbal species.
Golden oak is protected by the forest law of Cyprus, while the habitat type "Scrub and low forest vegetation of Quercus alnifolia (9390)" is a priority habitat of Europe (directive 92/43/EEC) . Large forest expanses of the species have been proposed for inclusion in the Natura 2000 ecological network of the European Union.
- Leonidou, Leo (February 3, 2006). "A flower for Cyprus". Cyprus Mail. Retrieved 2007-12-30.[dead link]
- Neophytou, Ch.; Palli G., Aravanopoulos F.A. (2007). "Morphological differentiation and hybridization between Quercus alnifolia Poech and Quercus coccifera L. (Fagaceae) in Cyprus" (PDF). Silvae Genetica 56 (6): 271–277. Retrieved 2008-03-01.
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- Meikle, R.D. (1985). Flora of Cyprus. London: Bentham Moxon Trust. pp. 1481–1482. ISBN 0-9504876-3-5.
- Merlo, Maurizio (2005). Valuing Mediterranean Forests: Towards Total Economic Value. CABI Publishing. p. 217. ISBN 0-85199-480-6.
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- "Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora". EUR-Lex. European Union law. 1992-07-22. Retrieved 2008-01-01.