These leaves are a familiar sight, but many of the park's oaks look very different.
This is the leaf shape of the lovely Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra); one of which marks a memorial (to Beryl and Eddie Irvine - see the Memorials page).
Incidentally, the change in sky colour among these photos of sunny weather is no artefact: artists come to Edinburgh because, being on the coast of a small island, it has this ever-varying light.
There's another Red Oak opposite Mr & Mrs Irvine's memorial. This is in the little park in front of Summerhall which is full of crocuses in February and narcissi in March.
Two mature oaks can be seen on each side of the street at the foot of Marchmont Road. Here's one on the east side.
The one on the west side illustrates the autumn colour pattern that can often be seen on the park's tree: the most striking colour is up on the tops and highest points of the branches. This is why, if you want to see the best of the autumn leaves, you should keep looking up.
The picture above isn't particularly clear, but here's a close-up of the top.
There aren't a great many examples in the park of the everyday Pedunculate or English oak (Quercus robur), much-loved though it is, but here's one pretty bower:
And here's its new leaves opening through May - if you click on the first pic you may be able to see the fine wispy threads
Creatures that carry acorns into new territories include jays and squirrels, but it may be thanks to humans that oaks have been here so long that they're regarded as native to the UK.
There are relatively few mature specimens in the Meadows, and the recent plantings tend to be Northern Red, Pin or Hungarian Oaks. Here's another of the Northern Red:
The large leaves below belong to Hungarian Oaks (Quercus frainetto). There's a sapling halfway along South Meadow Walk, and a more mature one just across the road from it on the Sri Chimnoy Mile path.
Here are the new leaves unfurling throughout May
There's a third frainetto on the west side of the Meadows by Melville Drive.
The park also has some Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris). The leaves are very similar to the Northern Red's, but the bark is a bit smoother. This is one of the park Pins:
And this is one of the Northern Reds:
There's a columnar (slender, upright variety) of the English Oak in the Tollcross corner of the Meadows.
Strangest of the Meadows selection is the Chestnut-Leaved Oak (Quercus castaneifolia): this one here is a new planting on North Meadow Walk. The leaves look just like a Sweet Chestnut's.
After the acorns are gone, some of the oaks are easy to spot in winter because they keep their leaves so much longer than most of the other trees.
This last tree above is a Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris).
Oaks can be identified in winter by several quite distinctive qualities:
- their late leaves
- the multiple buds at the end of each stem (the photo below is an enlargement of these small buds)
- and in the case of the Turkey Oak, the curly frills surrounding each bud.
These buds are for a brief moment full of colour late in spring
As well as acorns, oaks produce flowers: the male flowers are in the form of catkins
The strange spheres below however, growing on a new English Oak on Melville Drive, aren't some sort of acorn shells, but marble galls, the product of the oak marble gall wasp.
The interaction between wasp and tree results in these microhabitats within which the wasp eggs can be sheltered. The black spot on each one is actually an exit hole. The galls might seem disconcerting once you know what they are, but galls don't necessarily cause long-term harm to trees.