The exact origin of this hybrid oak is unknown, though it is believed to be a hybrid of the American Quercus rugosa, and the British native, Q. robur, which probably originated from the nursery of Messrs Smith of Worcester between 1873 and 1875. Regardless of its origin, it has long been admired for its coppery-red, emerging foliage and its fine form.
It was recorded by Richard Lynch (Curator from 1879-1919) as 11.7m high with a spread of 11.7m in 1910.
In the same year, Henry Elwes and Augustine Henry published the first botanical description of it in The Trees of Great Britain and Ireland, noting that the specimen at the Cambridge Botanic Garden was the finest in the country. It is not clear when, and by whom, the common name of ‘the Cambridge Oak’ was first coined, but we assume it is in recognition of this well-known and magnificent specimen.
A young tree, grafted from material of this mature specimen, is located near the Terrace Garden, and commemorates the 175th anniversary of the Garden on this site.