Ajuntament de Barcelona

Quercus suber

Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Alzina surera
    Spanish name: 
    Alcornoque
    English name: 
    Cork oak
    Observations: 

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is least concern.

    Species characteristics
    Family: 
    Fagaceae
    Origin: 
    Western Mediterranean area
    Habitat: 
    Mediterranean forest
    Characteristics: 

    Perennial tree 5-15 m tall, although it can reach 20 m. The thick (or very thick) rough bark is corky and deeply cracked; its greyish colour darks when the cork is extracted.

    The leaves, 2.5-10 cm long and 1-6.5 cm wide, are simple and alternate. Their texture is leathery and their shape varies from ovate to oblong, with a slight concavity and 5-7 pairs of nerves. The margins vary, too: from entire to obtusely lobulate and jagged with prickles at gaps. The upper side is bright dark green, whereas the lower side is lighter and covered by a dense whitish tomentum (hairs making a kind of down).

    The masculine flowers appear into many hanging catkins, 4-8 cm long, in groups of 5 or 6 flowers; the feminine ones appear isolated or into small groups.

    The acorns, 2-4 cm long, are covered into their bottom part by a very dense bell-shaped dome with thick and elongated scales.

    Flowering time: 
    April-May
    Fruiting time: 
    September-January
    Uses and properties: 

    Cork from the bark is the main produce of the Cork Oak, hence its name.

    Cork has gained popularity as an acoustic and thermic isolation material and as a sealant in engines or as a small material for artisans.

    Acorns are also used for cattle feed, specially for Iberian pigs. Its bitterness make it rare for human consumption.

    Besides the mentioned properties, it also makes a good wood for boat construction since it's weighty, strong and resilient. In ancient times it was also used as charcoal but results were not as good as with Holly Oak.

    Cork Oak is used in gardening because of the ornamental value of its bark and its resilience to drought.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name of the cork oak, Quercus suber, consists of the genus name Quercus, from the Celtic *quercuez, "oak, evergreen oak" —literally "beautiful tree", from *quer, "beautiful, elegant", and *cuez, "tree"—, and the Latin term suber, “cork oak” or “cork”.

    The cork oak, one of the indigenous species of the Mediterranean forest, lives between 150 and 250 years.

    After the first cork harvest (when the tree is 30 to 50 years old) it must be let pass 9 to 14 years between harvest and harvest, which is done completely by hand.

    Andalusia and South Extremadura are very important areas of cork production.

    In Barcelona, it is remarkable a group of cork oak in front of Països Catalans square.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001

    THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY. Enciclopedia de plantas y flores. Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1996

    http://www.asturnatura.com

    http://www.rhs.org.uk