Gallipoli Oak.

Most Australians would have heard the legendary story of the solitary Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia) that grew on the slopes of the Gallipoli Peninsula made famous as marking the site of the Battle of Lone Pine in August 1915.

But few may have heard about the Gallipoli Oak (Quercus coccifera subsp. Calliprinos) that grew along the ridges and valleys.

Also sometimes known as Palestine Oaks, these trees grow to about five metres tall, and have evergreen and prickly serrated leaves similar to a holly.

A specimen known as the Oak of Mamre, is believed to have survived for 850 years.

But when heavily grazed by goats they only grow between 1 and 3 metres and look more like a bush than a tree.

General John Monash wrote home to his wife in November 1915:

“I am sending in a separate packet, a few acorns. I have made the discovery that the prickly scrub, with which these hills are covered, and which has inflicted many an unkind scratch on hands, arms and bare knees, is really a species of holly, and bears an acorn, showing that it belongs to the Oak variety. The bush is quite ornate and grows to a height of about 5 feet, much like the ordinary holly with the red berry.”

Monash was not the only soldier to collect specimens and send them home.

Captain William Lempriere Winter-Cooke also collected acorns which were planted in 1916 by his family at their historic home, “Murndal”, near Hamilton.

Acorns were also planted at Geelong Grammar where Captain Winter-Cooke went to school, and together with the tree at Murndal, they are the only mature specimens in Australia.

While not as well known as the Lone Pine, the Gallipoli Oak is also an enduring arboreal link to Anzac cove.

This famous painting by George Lambert shows the sort of terrain on Anzac Cove where the prickly Gallipoli Oak grew. Source: NGA

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