It has been a while since I posted about the cork oak, but Jude’s post this week on trees reminded me of the wonderful Cork Oaks we walked past last week. It also gives me a great excuse to take part in variations on a theme!
The colour of this one suggests that it was harvested quite recently. Harvesting oak trees is a very skill skilled process, as only the outer bark is removed. The cambium layer of the trunk, which carries all the nutrients, is left undamaged and for a short time after harvest looks glorious in its reddish tones. The trees can only be harvested every nine years, about the same time as as it takes to learn the skills in harvesting. The trees are first harvested when they are around 25 years old, albeit it is not until thee trees are around 40 years old that the bark which is suitable for cork stoppers. A tree can be harvested over 16 times as they live for 200 to 300 years, and so it is not unusual for a tree today to be harvested by the grandchild or great-grandchild of the man who first harvested it.
Cork harvesting is a sustainable industry, and the trees are hugely beneficial to the environment. You should see how many bees they are surrounded by when in flower. Unfortunately however both the industry and the trees are in decline because the wine industry has shifted to using alternative wine stoppers. This is not good for the future of our planet, and is also having an negative impact on the lives and income of the families who manage the cork forests in Portugal, Spain and elsewhere in the world. We all need to pop a cork, and save a tree.