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  Source: APCOR, From tree to cork _ A sustainable system  

Magnificent leafy trees, cork oaks may grow to a height of 25 metres and live up to 300 years, never failing to serve those around them: the people who periodically divest them of their bark, which is so special that it is unique among tree barks; it protects the trees equally from the coldest winters and from the fires that are common in hot, dry summers in the Mediterranean regions.


And this plant tissue continues to surprise the scientific community with the versatility of its qualities, it protects the vital parts of the tree from fire and enables its renewal. Its life cycle spans generations and ensures the sustainability of the environment, since all the 'harvesting' (or stripping) is done by hand, with great care, so as not to cause any damage to the tree or the local environment. This tree’s ability to regenerate is such that even without using any chemical weed-killers, fertilisers or irrigation in the nine years between each stripping, the bark grows back and the cork is ready to be harvested again.


In these forests of exceptional beauty, people and animals live together in peace, as they have done ever since, in the distant past, humans realised how much the cork oak had to offer, in addition to its cork. Even today, people hunt in the woodlands, collect the honey from the blossoms and the mushrooms that grow in abundance at the base of the tree trunks; they use tree branches for firewood and feed their flocks on the acorns. Furthermore, the increased planting of the cork oak forests is preventing the desertification of southern Portugal, which is a dry, arid region of sandy soils, since it helps to reduce soil erosion and ensures the survival of their populations.


As well as producing oxygen, as all trees do, the cork oak has a very special, unique, cell structure that enables it to retain the carbon dioxide that is largely responsible for global warming.