Quercus suber is the scientific name for the cork oak, a remarkable tree. Unlike the aforementioned Eucalyptus, the cork oak is native to southwest Europe (and northwest Africa). Interestingly, both trees are classified as pyrophytes, plants that are adapted to tolerate and resist fire. But while the Eucalyptus is considered an active pyrophyte that promotes the spread of forest fires through the production of inflammable oils, the cork oak is a passive pyrophyte that resists the passage of fire through its thick and insulating bark (cork). The canopy burns, but the trunk doesn’t and the tree quickly regenerates. If the tree doesn’t burn, every 7-10 years cork can be extracted in a process that doesn’t harm the tree and will promote the regrowth of a new layer of cork. Cork extraction is a sustainable practice and cork oak forests, minimally intervened for cork extraction purposes every decade or so, support unique and rich ecosystems.
This photo shows a relatively young oak tree from which cork has been recently extracted for the first time (this is called “virgin” cork and is of less quality than the one obtained in subsequent extractions). Below, the bark layer left after cork extraction that is of a gorgeous russet colour, and above it the cork of the upper trunk and branches that has been left.
All I have to say is WOW! Click for full size!
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