Holm Oak

Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)
Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)

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Common Name(s): Holm Oak, Holly Oak

Scientific Name: Quercus ilex

Distribution: Mediterranean Basin

Tree Size: 65-85 ft (20-25 m) tall, 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 50 lbs/ft3 (800 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .62, .80

Janka Hardness: 1,610 lbf (7,150 N)

Modulus of Rupture: No data available*

Elastic Modulus: No data available*

Crushing Strength: No data available*

*Values most likely very similar to White Oak

Shrinkage:Radial: 4.6%, Tangential: 8.4%, Volumetric: 13.0%, T/R Ratio: 1.8

Color/Appearance: Has a light to medium brown color, though there can be a fair amount of variation in color.

Grain/Texture: Has medium-to-large pores and a fairly coarse grain.

Rot Resistance: Good rot resistance: frequently used in boatbuilding applications.

Workability: Easy to glue, and takes stain and finishes very well.

Odor: Has a tell-tale smell that is common to most oaks. Most find it appealing.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, oak has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye and skin irritation, as well as asthma-like symptoms. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Rarely if ever imported, Holm Oak is likely only available in or around its natural range surrounding the Mediterraenean Basin. Prices are likely to be comparable to other native oaks, such as English Oak.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Tools, cabinetry, furniture, wine barrels, turned objects, and firewood.

Comments: The term “holm” oak is another word for “holly,” so named because the foliage of Quercus ilex resembles Holly. (The tree is also sometimes known as Evergreen Oak, since it keeps its leaves year round, with old leaves falling off after the new ones appear. Holm Oak falls into the white oak group, and shares many of the same traits as White Oak (Quercus alba).

Related Species:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the wood sample of this wood species.

Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)
Holm Oak (sanded)
Holm Oak (sealed)
Holm Oak (sealed)
Holm Oak (endgrain)
Holm Oak (endgrain)
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Steve g

The Holm Oak end grain on the data base isnt very high res but it really looks too ring porous in vessel pattern . ?


Well spotted. I live in Greece within the natural area of distribution where Holm Oak does not show growth rings. Moreover it can have dark brown, extensive, heartwood and be a lot heavier by volume than what is stated. It takes an incredible glassy lustered polish, it’s less prone to cracking compared with Holm Oak grown in the UK. Traditionally it ‘s used [in Greece at least] for wooden mallets and for cogs in wind and water mill cogwheels. The offcuts make very good fuel.


Hi, I would really like to know if there is and way to differentiate between Holm oak and Live / Virginian Oak purely by the end grain pattern .
hhh2 is Holm oak but the unknown is hhh1, very similar vessels but the Holme tends to be a single radial line of vessels whereas hhh1 is multiple….does this mean it is not Holme? could it be Live Oak ?


Thanks for looking into that . yep it might be Holm, but ‘if’ it is Virginian is there a way to prove its Virginian /Live and not Holm. is there anything other than vessel distribution that distinguishes the two apart. The photo is of a bowl I turned from driftwood found on Lyme Regis Beach . it had obviously been in the sea; on the sea bed for a long time, wonderful evidence of Teredo navalis bore holes. I am trying to prove whether this is local Holm oak or Virginian Oak from maybe driftwood Beach Gorgia curtesy of the… Read more »

Steve G



From my reading into the nature of holm oak many years ago , when got a wind blown limb from an old wood .
1. Beautiful grain colouring like the plumage of a trush
2. Seasoned well with less cracking or shakes than common oaks . Air dry for best results.
3. Use in olden times for strong load bearing parts in wooden ship building.

Harold Hoogenboom

Hi Tomas, thank you for this very important info. I’m from the Netherlands and I’m also sure that the values from wood database are far from correct. It is indeed much harder and dense as they describe it. In the north of Europe it grows in England that I know of, but it can’t be compared to holmoaks in southern Europe for sure. I’m surprised that wood database didn’t answer your comment after more then a year or even bother to correct the values for holmoak. It’s an amazing wood. In the Netherlands it’s used in windmills for centuries. A… Read more »

Tim Germain

i’m mot a wood technician but rather a designer-maker. i just made a box for the ashes of my mate jerry out of holm oak that we got from a local park back in 2015, hence reasonably well seasoned as it was cut into 3/4″ planks. from working with it, i can say it machines as if it were even harder than english oak, it feels even denser and the silvergrain is quite magnificent unfortunately, given its use this time, i am not going to be able to keep an eye on how well it ages but i would be… Read more »


Hi Tim, I’m a retired wood consultant, originally from the Netherlands but awhile ago when we retired we moved to Crete, Greece — Chania prefecture. There’s a lot of holm oak over here. It sure is a lot harder than any other European oak, possibly with the exception of Quercus coccifera which looks quite similar [talking about the wood]. It takes on a glassy polish, will readily sink in water no matter how well dried. Formerly [and to a limited degree, still] used for mallets, cogs in cogwheels, and other mechanical applications. The trouble is, it’s very hard. So sawmills… Read more »


Hi Harold… I live in Chania, Greece, having moved here nearly 10 years ago when we had the option of prepensioen. The local holm oak is way heavier than what is described; one — admittedly rather fresh — piece weighed in at 1.45 kilo/liter. When well dry — that takes a lot of time — the weight by volume will still be very high, estimate 1.15-1.2. The local holm oak has the reputation of not cracking; but you have to slowly air dry it.

tomas lainas

hi! im really sorry to say so, but i cant help noticing the values for holm oak are not relevant to the species Quercus ilex that grows in Spain. i assume its not easy to find relevant information in english, but since this tremendously heavy and hard wood is a tree very common to Spain, it is possible to find information in Spanish. the only drawback is they do not use the Janka test, but the Monnin wood hardness test. the hardness value of Quecus Ilex is 14.3 – measured by the Madrid Polytechnical university. in Spanish Hollyoak is Encina.… Read more »