The evergreen oak (Quercus Ilex) is a tree of the family Fagaceae, with perennial leaves, typical of the Mediterranean area. So that, in Spain this is the commonest forest species: around three million hectares of oak woods distributed all over the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. It is also called carrasca, chaparra or chaparro.
It is a medium-length tree, which may reach 16 to 25 metres high, mainly cultivated in order to obtain its fruits, the well-known acorns. It is a very long-live tree, since in Spain we have specimens possibly aging a thousand years.
Evergreen oaks are usually grown and well-tended in meadows, where their acorns are used to feed the cattle, mainly pigs. Pigs fed exclusively with acorns in meadows produce the best cured ham, internationally known as “pata negra” (black-legged ham). Firewood from evergreen oaks is also used to make an excellent coal. Its wood is very hard and it doesn’t get rot, although it’s difficult to work on, so it is mainly used to make pieces which withstand big efforts and frictions, such as carriages, ploughs, parquet floorings, beams, and so on.
In their natural state, evergreen oaks form vast and very dense forests, along with other typical species of the Mediterranean forest such as pines, rockroses, etc… Moreover, these forests are the best habitat for the Mediterranean fauna, and therefore some of them are ideal hunting preserves while others are the most highly-protected natural reserves. The oak wood is the main ecosystem in several protected natural reserves in Spain, such as the Cabañeros Natural Park, located in our community, Castile- La Mancha.
Castilian evergreen oaks
on slopes and foothills,
mountain ridges and hills,
full of dark undergrowth,
oaks, dark evergreen oaks:
humility and strength!
Antonio Machado, from Fields of Castile