Cork Oak – Quercus suber

01 Aug

Summer is here, we feel hot and keep looking for shade. The Mediterranean section is crossed by Judah path, named after Judah Kirstein that donated his estate to the garden. This is a shaded path and pleasant even in the heat. Various Mediterranean trees grow along the path, Such as the Palestine Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus subsp. palaestina), which was our plant of the month in November 2018, Myrtus communis, as well as the Cork Oak.

אלון השעם

The Cork Oak is a slow-growing Mediterranean Oak. There are individual trees that are over 250 years old. This Oak grows in the western Mediterranean basin, from Italy to Portugal in southern Europe, and from Tunisia to Morocco in northern Africa.

The Cork Oak has a thick bark, adapted to surviving fires. The bark’s many uses were discovered back in the Roman period. The cork is a light material that can be used for insulation. The Romans used it to seal boats, for fishing nets, buoys and even for sandals. Nowadays cork is used mainly for wine-bottles stoppers, but it has many additional uses, such as gaskets, inner soles for shoes, holding grips, cork boards, ornamental objects and insulation boards for buildings.

quercus suber

Cultivating Cork Oak for commercial uses is common mainly in its countries of origin. The biggest cork supplier in the world today is Portugal. Cork is a sustainable crop: the bark is harvested from the tree, and within 9-12 years it regrows, and can be harvested repeatedly, turning it into a renewable source.  Harvesting cork from the oak begins when the tree is 25 years old. A cork tree can be harvested for cork 10-20 times during its lifetime, without causing harm to the tree. Cork harvesting is done entirely by hand.

After being harvested, the barks are piled in the field to dry for about half a year. Next, they are cooked and disinfected, and then processed into cork slabs that are passed on to the industry. In other regions, where the cork bark is peeled too soon, cork forests are badly hurt. Usually the cork oak is not planted, and the trees in native forests are used.

In the Iberian Peninsula, Cork Oak forests are an important habitat to two endangered animals: the Iberian Lynx, of which only about 400 remain in the wild and the vulnerable Spanish Imperial Eagle.

Iberian_Lynx_full_body

picture by: http://www.lynxexsitu.es – CC BY 3.0 es, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27381736

The Cork Oak is a Mediterranean tree with beautiful dark-green foliage, and a unique sculptural trunk. It is a water saving tree, recommended for gardens and parks. You are invited to view it, as well as another 70 Oak species that grow all over the Botanical Garden!

Written by: Yael Orgad, August 2019

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