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Kermes Oak

Quercus coccifera     Fr: Chêne Kermès

 Oak Kermes photo nesque_oak015B.jpg

This is actually a shrub, rather than a full-fledged tree. The Kermes oak grows to about a meter high. (They can grow larger, with the straight appearance of a tree, but very seldom do so in the wild.) Like its larger Mediterranean brothers, the leaves are year-round. They are also very small (2-4 cm), dark shiny green, and have shallow, sharp spines around the edges. The appearance of this bush, including the color and shape of its leaves, closely resembles a holy bush.

The Kermes oak grows very thickly on the hottest and driest hills throughout the region. In the Spring, the bush sprouts fluffy, yellow catkins and acorns which ripen every second year among the old leaves.

A Kermes, by the way, is the name of the tiny insect that lives its entire life on the branches of this bush. This beetle Coccus ilicis was, since classical greek times, collected, dried and used as a scarlet food and wool dye. Coccineal has now taken its place!

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