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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quercus suber - Cork Oak

The Cork Oak has to the one of my oldest memories of trees from when I was a kid. My favorite book was Ferdinand the Bull. As some of you might remember he would sit in the shade of a cork tree. What a mellow bull. Still remember the corks hanging from the branches.

We are blessed with several beautiful specimens of this oak in town. The Cork oak is native to the southern Mediterranean region and grows well here. A large evergreen tree growing 30-60' tall and almost as wide forming a wide dome shaped canopy. Branches may settle almost to the ground if left in place. This specimen is located at 7th and Soquel Ave.

The leaves are alternate, simple, elliptical to oval shaped, 1-3" long, about half as wide, with either entire or lightly spinose margins that may also be wavy or undulated. Faster growing leaves are generally more spinose than slower growing leaves. Leaves generally dark bluish green, looking like they have a wax coating on the upper surface and usually lightly hairy on the lower. Leaves last 3 years.

Flowers are small and insignificant, light yellow, arranged in catkins, typical of an oak. Females are borne in the axils of leaves and will produce the typical acorn.

Fruit is an acorn, 1 - 1-1/4" long, rounded at the tip and about half covered with a cap.

Bark, wow, what can anyone say. Used for ever as corks for wine and is now used as flooring. Harvest off of trees every 9 or so years. (It does not seem to hurt the tree, may embarrass it a little, sort of like shaving a dog.) These two images are from San Lorenzo Park.

One of my favorite specimens located at Painshill Park in England. Love the supports holding up the branches. This garden was planted in the early 1700's. The tree was more likely planted between 1730 and 1770 by the garden owner and designer Charles Hamilton.

Bonsai specimen at the SF Flower show.

Misidentification: Other similar oaks if all you have to look at are the leaves. Q. agrifolia maybe, look at the lower surface of the leaf.
Q. ilex as well, but the leaves are glossier perhaps, more green and does not have the great bark.

Live Oak:
7th and Soquel Ave.
Several on the 18th hole at De Laveaga Golf Course
Santa Cruz:
San Lorenzo Park SC.

Castro Adobe near Larkin Valley was suggested by a reader, thanks!!!

1 comment:

  1. Ferdinand might have enjoyed the cork oaks living at the Castro Adobe near Larkin Valley.