It’s one of the most important plants ever known to humans. It’s the Cork Oak, Quercus suber. It’s a beautiful medium-sized tree and there’s an entire forest of them here in Italy. Why is it so important? Without the Cork Oak, history would have been very different. It’s the source of the cork used to make wine bottle stoppers and the cores of cricket balls. It’s hard for Australia to imagine it.
They have microscopic underground associations with a fascinating range of fungi, including the Death Cap, Amanita phalloides and the Porcini, Boletus edulis; from deadly to delicious. They form an important habitat for Iberian Lynx.
Why do they have 3 to 5 cm of cork over them? It’s because they’ve evolved to survive fires and start regrowing quickly. It’s a highly effective natural fire blanket.
There’s a lot to admire about Cork Oaks.