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English Oak (Quercus robur) male flowers and early leaves

Q: I have never seen an oak tree flower. Am I missing something?

Q:  I heard you talking about how the pollen from the oak tree flowers might be causing some of our allergy problems. I have never seen an oak tree flower.  Am I missing something?

A:  Oaks are monecious which means the tree has male and female flowers located separately on the plant, the flowers clusters are called catkins. The female flowers are classified as pistillate and the male flowers are labeled staminate – aren’t you glad you asked?  I put that piece of trivia in this article just to remind the Master Gardener volunteers the importance of the Botany class lessons I taught. You would have to look very close to see the female flowers as they are quite small – which makes them extremely easy to miss. The male flowers on the other hand, are yellow-green, long and slender. They are not necessarily attractive either but right now they are everywhere, hanging from oak trees and putting off loads of yellow pollen all over our cars and outdoor furniture.  It is the production of oak and other tree pollen which has caused many of us to have itchy, burning eyes and runny, red noses.