"La Encina" Oak of the Spanish Plains

This is a follow-up to a post I wrote back in January about the Holm Oak (Quercus Ilex) that I will refer to here by its Spanish name "La Encina". After having lived in Spain for almost ten years I have come to the conclusion that this is probably the second most common and important tree in Spain after the Olive tree. The primary reason for its importance, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is that it is a source of acorns for the Iberian pig from which a number of very important meat products are made from. The image above is typical of the countryside in the region of Extremadura within the province of Cáceres. All of the trees in the picture are Encinas.

These images (above and below) are from a small Iberian pig farm. These pigs are fairly small and quite dark in color. Being allowed to forage over a fairly large area helps keep them lean. Before the Encina Oaks acorns are in season these pigs are fed melon rinds and various types of grains. When the acorns are in season that feed almost exclusively on the flavorful fruits of the Enicna Oak (the Cork Oak, English Oak and Portuguese Oak are also sources of acorns for these pigs). The slaughter of these pigs for making Jamon Serrano (cured ham) and other meat products is in November-December right after the end of the acorn season.

The Jamon Serrano that is made for these black hoofed Iberian pigs is Spain´s most prized product. Some other meat products that are made from these pigs are Chorizo, Lomo and Paleta. The "Jamon Serrano" is the whole hind leg that has been carefully cured under special conditions in the same way that it been prepared for hundreds of years. The "Paleta" is the foreleg and is less valued (and thus cheaper).

The image below is of a rather large, three trunked, Encina Oak in Extremadura.


  1. Nice posts and photos! I love trees with flat crown and I would like to plant some in front of my house, but I live in zone 6a and I suppose the holm oak is too tender for our conditions. Actually, I saw a beautiful specimen in some magazine´s picture (according to the style of the front yard I think it was situated in North America), but I can´t find it now. Could it be any another oak, maybe? Don´t you have any idea for expressively flat crown trees in zone 6a? Thanks.

  2. The shape of the Holm Oak trees in this post has a lot to do with how they are pruned. About every ten years or so these trees are harvested for firewood is such a way that the tree lives on. Only about three main branches (horizontal) are left at about 12-15 feet off the ground. This is what ends of giving the tree the "flat crown" shape. If you wanted to you could do the same with a different Oak tree species that is common in your area.

  3. Dan, thanks for the interesting article and explanation of a good pruning practice of Holm Oak in a dry and hot regions! But have there any seedlings chance to germinate because of pigs? Thanks!