Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)

The Pin Oak (sometimes called Spanish or Swamp Oak) is native to North America where entire forests of it grow. It was introduced to the UK in the 1800’s and has become a common sight in our parks and gardens due to it being very fast growing and easy to transplant compared to other Oak species. It likes both free draining and moist soils and is pollution tolerant so makes a great street tree for our towns and cities.

It is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to around 20m in height with leaves of bright green which turn reddish-brown or crimson in autumn. The common name ‘Pin Oak’ comes from the trees many short slender twigs which create its dense canopy. The leaves can be between 5–16cm long and 5–10cm wide, but are so deeply lobed that there is often as much space between the lobes as there is actual leaf. The dead leaves sometimes remain hanging on the tree during winter.

Photo Credit: Paul Hunter, C.S. Lewis Square

The Pin Oak naturally has a pyramidal canopy with the upper branches pointing upwards, the middle branches being distinctively horizontal, and the lower branches drooping downwards as they mature.

Where to find it??

The trees can be found at the entrance to C.S Lewis Square but these are not your average pin oak trees. They have been trained for over 20 years to recreate the massive stone arches that used to carry the County Down Railway across the junction of the Newtownards and Holywood Roads from 1850 to 1950 which was known locally as the ‘Holywood Arches’. The shape was achieved by pruning over many years retaining only the middle horizontal branches to create a flat ‘roof top’ shape. We have placed them in a row close together to create the flat railway bridge shape.

Photo Credit: Aaron Matchett, C.S. Lewis Square

Many oak trees can live for several centuries but our pin oak has a shorter lifespan of just over 100 years. So they could be there just as long as the previous Holywood Arches…

Be Part of it..

Get down to C.S Lewis Square and have a look at these living sculptures. In The EastSide Visitor centre you can actually have a coffee while sitting beside or under them. Upstairs you can look into or down on the canopy of these big Oak trees. Not something you get to do everyday, unless you are a regular!

As always send us your pictures or drawings. And if you have any requests for a future ‘What’s Growing on the Greenway?’ plant let us know.