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Evergreen Holm Oak – Quercus ilex – Il-balluta

Evergreen Holm Oak – Quercus ilex – Il-balluta

The Evergreen Holm Oak is a large broadleaved tree native to the central and western Mediterranean basin, where it represents the dominant species in woodlands and maquis vegetation. It is shade-tolerant and capable of regeneration under canopy cover. Furthermore it is also a root re-sprouting tree.

It can grow to heights and widths of 25 to 30 m and trunk diameters exceeding 2 m. The lifespan of the Evergreen Holm Oak may exceed 1000 years. The oldest populations in Malta are believed to be between 800 to1000 year old. The broad tree crown is domed with several ascending branches and often low stems.

The leaves are generally oval 3 to 7 cm long, thick and triangular or rounded at the base with 1 to 2 cm long woolly stem stalks. Once mature, the leaves become rough and shiny with densely hairy underside, a protective adaptation to reduce water loss and assist in drought tolerance.

It is a hermaphrodite species, having both male and female flower (catkins) on the same tree. Males (catkins) are 4 to 7 cm long and pale green with a large number of yellow stamens, whereas female catkins grow in small clusters of 2 to 3 and green to grey in colour. The fruit is a 1.5 to 2 cm brown acorn.

In Europe the evergreen oak forms well-structured woodlands with a rich diversity of tree species. For centuries the Mediterranean Evergreen Holm Oak woodlands have witnessed several human abuses which have exploited and modified significantly the biodiversity of the area.

Wood produced from the Evergreen Holm Oak has also been used since ancient times in several applications such as tools, pillars, wagons, boats and wine casks amongst others. Many of the previous oak woodlands have now been replaced by agricultural land or urban areas.


The Evergreen Holm Oak is legally protected in the Maltese island by the tree protection regulations.

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