The Cork Oak, a Millenary Tree May 09, 2016 15:34

The cork oak (Quercus suber L.) has green leaves all year round (it is an evergreen tree) and has a very special bark – the cork.

It is included in the oak genus (Quercus spp.), a group of species with common affinities and origin. The cork oak belongs to a small sub-group that embodies European and Asian species– the group Cerris. The first trees identified as cork oaks occurred millions of years ago. Since then, several episodes of climatic change have taken place affecting the vegetation. Particularly interesting is the period that began around 1.8 million years ago –

the Pleistocene Age - characterized by alternating periods of extreme cold (glacial eras) with warmer inter-glacial periods. These events decisively influenced the geographical distribution and the genetic diversity of the cork oak. The cold forced the cork oak to take refuge in more benign climatic areas. At the end of the last glacial period, around 10,000 years ago, the cork oak colonized its present distribution area. Currently, cork oak occurs typically in the Western Mediterranean region, i.e., in the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain), south of France and the west coast of Italy, as well as in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and the Mediterranean Islands (Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia). The total area occupied is currently around 1.44 million hectares in Europe and 0.70 million hectares in Northern Africa. More than half of this area is located in the Iberian Peninsula (Figure 1, Chart 1 and 2).

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