Cresswell Gardens: War Memorial Oak

This magnificent English Oak Quercus robur known as the ‘War Memorial Oak’, is found off War Memorial Drive in the Creswell Gardens, near the Adelaide Oval. It was planted on 29 August, 1914; a mere 25 days after Britain declared war on Germany, making it 101 years old in 2015, with many years yet to come.

This oak was planted by the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency Sir Henry Galway, in the company of Lady Galway and many other dignitaries. Eight wattles were also planted by the attending dignitaries to recognise the eight states and territories forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Due to this tree’s centenary, and in recognition of its cultural importance, the City of Adelaide has imposed a tree protection zone around it, to prevent any machinery damage.

This oak tree is considered to be of national importance because it was the first tree to be planted to commemorate World War One by any of the countries involved in that conflict.

Readers may note that it is a young tree, and already taller than its recognised height. Official sources say that this oak can reach a height of 12m. The height of this tree is 14.5m, and its canopy spread North to South 22.7m and East to West 27.2m.

Quercus is the Latin name for oak, and robur is Latin for strength or robustness. Quercus robur is also known as Common Oak, Pedunculate Oak, Black Oak and French Oak. It belongs to the family Fagaceae, and is a large, spreading, deciduous tree, and one of around 300 species found in the temperate zones of the Northern hemisphere. It is a forest tree of the British Isles, Europe and Asia.

It is slow growing, and known to attain a great age, and said to “grow for 300 years; live for 300 years, and die for 300 years”; some oaks live for 1800 years, and reach a height of 10m to 15m. Its timber is traditionally used for ship-building and half-timbered houses, floor boards, interior panelling, and fence posts because its timber is durable and unaffected by pests or disease. It is a common park tree in Australia; the largest example being in Donnybrook, Western Australia.