Sunday, June 2, 2013

Quercus Suber

By Julie Rahm
Quercus Suber is the scientific name for the cork oak tree. The cork oak is a medium-sized evergreen. It is the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers and cork flooring. The tree is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. Here in the United States, the cork oak is favored by many horticulturists as a hearty, evergreen shade tree. Mature trees can reach seventy-five feet tall and form a broad canopy of toothed, shiny dark green leaves that are silver-gray underneath. Chocolate brown acorns are held loosely in caps and provide food for birds and small animals. The cork oak can be planted in a variety of well-drained soils and has water requirements ranging from dry to moderate. The cork oak is particularly favored in coastal regions as it is impervious to salt spray. The most important planting limitation is exposure to frost. The oaks are considered to be soil builders and their fruits have been shown to have useful insecticidal properties. The cork oak forms a thick, rugged bark. Over time the layer of bark can develop considerable thickness and can be harvested every nine to twelve years to produce cork. The harvesting of cork does not harm the tree. In fact, no trees are cut down during the harvesting process. Only the bark is extracted, and a new layer of cork re-grows, making it a renewable resource. The tree is cultivated in Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia with Portugal accounting for around fifty percent of the world cork harvest. Cork oaks cannot legally be cut down in Portugal, except for forest management felling of old, unproductive trees. Even in those cases, farmers need special permission from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Cork oaks live about 150 to 250 years. Virgin cork is the first cork cut from 25-year-old trees. A tree can be harvested about twelve times in its lifetime. Cork harvesting is done entirely without machinery, being dependent solely on human labor. Usually five people are required to harvest the bark of one tree. The process requires training due to the skill required to harvest bark without harming the tree. The European cork industry produces 300,000 tons of cork a year, with a value two billion dollars and employing 30,000 people. Wine corks represent fifteen percent of cork usage by weight but sixty-six percent of revenues.
     So this week, corks provide me the opportunity to tell you about being “bottled up”. Many of my clients express their dismay over their particular life situation. Often they are stuck in an unfulfilling job or relationship. They are unable to move forward and gain improvement. However, moving forward in a job or relationship requires an exact knowing of the real problem. For example, the first step is knowing if they are stuck or if the situation is stuck. Too often, we have the wrong answer and remain corked in the bottle. To get uncorked, contact me by visiting me online at 

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