Climate change is one of the major issues nowadays, and Mediterranean broadleaf species have been suggested to fill possible future gaps created by climate change in Central European forests. To provide a scientific-based foundation for such practical strategies, it is important to obtain a general idea about differences and similarities in the physiology of Central European and Mediterranean species. In the present study, we evaluated the onset of leaf senescence of a broad spectrum of oak species under the Central European climate in a common garden experiment. Degradation of the photosynthetic apparatus of evergreen (Quercus ilex, Q. suber), semi-evergreen (Q. × turneri, Q. × hispanica) and deciduous oaks (Q. robur, Q. cerris, Q. frainetto, Q. pubescens) was monitored as chlorophyll content and analysed chlorophyll fluorescence induction transients. In the deciduous species, a significant decline in chlorophyll content was observed during autumn/winter, with Q. pubescens showing the slowest decline. Analysis of fluorescence induction transients revealed a significant decline in quantum efficiency of the primary photochemistry and reaction centre density and later, a decrease in quantum efficiency of end acceptor reduction. Alterations in fluorescence parameters were compared to the decline in chlorophyll content, which occurred much more slowly than expected from the fluorescence data. The evergreen species showed no decline in chlorophyll content, nor different chlorophyll a fluorescence induction behaviour despite temperature falling below 0 °C. The hybrids showed intermediate behaviour between their parental evergreen and deciduous taxa.