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Oak as a symbol

The oak is a common symbol of strength and endurance and has been chosen as the national tree of England, Estonia, France, Germany, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the United States, Basque Country, Wales and Serbia. Iowa has designated the oak as its official state tree in 1961, and the White Oak is the state tree of Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland. The Northern Red Oak is the provincial tree of Prince Edward Island, as well as the state tree of New Jersey. The Live Oak is the State Tree of Georgia.

The oak is the emblem of County Londonderry in Northern Ireland, as a vast amount of the county was covered in forests of the tree until relatively recently. The name of the county comes from the city of Derry, which originally in Irish was known as Doire meaning oak.

Oak leaves are traditionally an important part of German Army regalia. They also symbolize rank in the United States Armed Forces. A gold oak leaf indicates an O-4 (Major or Lt. Commander), whereas a silver oak leaf indicates an O-5 (Lt. Colonel or Commander). Arrangements of oak leaves, acorns and sprigs indicate different branches of the United States Navy Staff corps officers. Oak leaves are embroidered onto the covers worn by field grade officers and flag officers in the United States armed services.

The oak tree is used as a symbol by a number of political parties. It is the symbol of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom, and formerly of the Progressive Democrats in Ireland. In the cultural arena, the oak leaf is the symbol of the National Trust (UK) and The Royal Oak Foundation.

In Celtic mythology, oak is the tree of doors, believed to be a gateway between worlds, or a place where portals could be erected. In Norse mythology, the oak was sacred to the thunder god, Thor. Some scholars speculate that this is because the oak, as the largest tree in northern Europe, was the one most often struck by lightning. In Classical mythology, the oak was a symbol of Zeus and his sacred tree.

The Oak tree is traditionally sacred to Serbs and is widely used throughout Serbia on national and regional symbols both old and new. In the Bible, the oak tree at Shechem is the site where Jacob buries the foreign gods of his people. In addition, Joshua erects a stone under an oak tree as the first covenant of the Lord. In Isaiah 61, the prophet refers to the Israelites as “Oaks of Righteousness”.

Several individual oak trees, such as the Royal Oak in Britain and the Charter Oak in the United States, are of great historical or cultural importance.

“The Proscribed Royalist, 1651”, a famous painting by John Everett Millais, depicts a Royalist fleeing from Cromwell’s forces and hidden in an oak.