Northern Red Oak

Particolare delle foglie di una quercia rossa del giardino di Villa Crivelli Pusterla a Limbiate (Fototeca ISAL, Fotografia di Anna Zaffaroni)
Detail of a red oak in the garden of Villa Crivelli Pusterla in Limbiate (ISAL Photo Archive, photograph by Anna Zaffaroni)

After walking part of the way along the avenue lined with the lime tree (Tilia cordata) that acts as the central column of today’s appurtenant garden of the old Villa Crivelli Pusterla, there is a small mixed wood composed of many tree species: the Atlas cedar (Atlantic glauca); yew (Taxus baccata) with their dark green needle-like leaves in strong contrast with the ripe, red fruit; beeches (Fagus sylvatica) with their silver bark and smooth and glossy leaves which fade from red to green; plane trees (Platanus sp.) with large five-lobed leaves and mottled bark; and the red oaks (Quercus borealis) of North American origin characterized by large, domed tops and erect branches.

Under all these tall trees is the hectic life of the undergrowth, characterized by a swarm of small animals and the rapid growth of the delicate cerulean flowers of the periwinkle weed (Vinca minor). Widespread in the gardens of country residences of Brianza, the red oak was planted next to other species of native oak imported directly from America, not only for decorative purposes, but also for its rapid growth, and ability to resist cold winters and adapt to acidic soils.
The Red oak has dull green leaves, which become red in autumn alternating with short, sturdy stems. Flowers and leaves appear at the same time in May. Male flowers hang in slender and pendulous spikelets called catkins; the female flowers are located at the ends of the shoots. The bark becomes dark gray, shiny and cracked with age.
All species of the genus are monoecious and anemophilous because their pollen is dispersed by the wind. The fruit called acorn is a nut enclosed in a more or less developed dome which ripens in the second year and lignifies over time.
Its grandeur and longevity when the former provincial psychiatric hospital was operational, along with its fruits collected for food in a sort of closed cycle to feed the pigs on the property, perfectly blended with the symbolism of this plant, which is strength and sovereignty legitimized by the gods.