Where does cork really come from?
Where does cork really come from
Get to know this fascinating material with unmatched properties
Meet the Quercus Suber L.
The Cork Oak Tree
From footwear to flooring, cork is the chosen material by many industries such as diverse as spatial engineering or the beauty industry. Cork is a fascinating material, no doubt, with unique properties and endless applications.
It all starts in the cork forest, home to Quercus Suber L. , the Cork Oak Tree and its harvesting process. Portugal has a third of the total area of cork oaks making it the largest cork producer in the world (responsible for 55% of the world's cork production). l
From all the cork oak forests, approximately 340 000 tonnes of cork are harvested each year. Cork forest, called ‘montado’ in portuguese, occupies an estimated area of over 2.2 million hectares in the West Mediterranean basin.
Harvesting is the process of extracting the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark renews itself ready for the next harvesting making it and enrionmentally friendly. To this day, this work is still performed by specialized professionals with absolute precision, who use just a single manual tool: the axe.
Cork harvesting takes place between May and August, when the tree is at its most active time of growth. During this period, the soft, newly formed cork cells are still turgid and thin walled, which means it’s easier to remove the bark from the trunk.
“No trees are damaged or cut during the process”.
The first harvesting, called "desboia", happens when the cork oak is 25 years old. In some cases it can happen earlier if the trunk has reached 70 cm of diameter or 1,40 m in height. After that the subsequent harvests happen in nine year intervals.
During the cork oak tree lifespan, the cork may be harvested around 17 times. Which means that the harvesting of the cork will last, on average, 200 years. It is said that the cork oak tree is the most generous tree in the world.
“There is no tree that gives this much while demanding so little.”
The positive impact of cork harvesting on the environment
Cork harvesting has a remarkable positive impact on the environment. “In fact, harvested cork trees absorb 5 times more CO2 than non-harvested trees.” Cork oak trees, in Portugal alone, help offset 10 million tons of carbon every year. Which means that they play a big role helping to reduce global warming.
The thick bark on cork oak trees also acts a protective barrier against fire and heat. This protection extends to the forest itself and the animals within it. In fact, the scientific name for these species of tree is pyrophytes – which means ‘fire plants’. Cork oak forests are also among the top biodiversity hotspots in Europe. Home to a staggering number of endangered animals species and plants.
The cork oak forest is essential for the economic development of rural areas in the Mediterranean region. WWF estimates that more than 100,000 people are economically dependent of cork-related business activities. Cork harvesting is an activity that requires experience and high skills. Making it the highest paid agricultural job in the world.
But more than a job, harvesting is a handcraft work that requires a deep knowledge of the forest and the technique. Thus to be able to perform this activity takes several years of training, a know-how that crosses family generations. Cork harvesting is a cyclical process, creating a continuous activity that contributes to settle people in areas at risk of desertification. A harmonious balance is maintained, where local people can provide for their needs without damaging the ecosystem or threatening the long-term sustainability of their most important natural resource.
Benefits of Cork in flooring
There are many benefits to cork but especially in flooring. The use of cork provides a unique experience and sensations that you can't get with wood or ceramic floors.
The uniqueness of Wicanders flooring is achieved by using a prime quality core layer of cork. This provides superior performance in terms of comfort, noise reduction and warmth. An integrated cork underlay reinforces thermal and acoustic properties, resulting in a silent environment and important energy cost savings. Also, because flooring is such an important element in creating a cozy and aesthetically pleasing space, Wicanders combines the cork benefits with highly realistic wood, stone and cork visuals to match your style.
Get to know all the Corktech benefits here or explore our products here
Choosing cork is choosing the environment and contributing to a more sustainable tomorrow.