Let’s celebrate 10th June – the National Day of Portugal – with their National Tree – the Cork Oak (Quercus Suber)

by | Jun 10, 2024 | General

Cork oak trees in the Montado – © Amorim

On 10th June each year, the middle of harvest time in the cork forests, the Portuguese celebrate their National Day in honour of Luís de Camões, the poet whose mastery of verse is compared to that of Shakespeare, Homer and Dante.

Mastery of another kind takes place each year in the montados when highly skilled harvesters, who are the best paid agricultural workers in Portugal, carry out the task of carefully removing the outer bark from the inner cambium layer which the trees give up naturally in the summer heat. 

Harvesting pictures courtesy of Kate Watson-Smyth of

Stripping the cork is a delicate operation that is performed by hand with traditional tools and despite attempts to do so, no mechanised or automated process has been found that can compare to skilled manual harvesting.

No cork trees are cut down during the harvest and the ‘fruit’ which is the outer bark, regrows naturally over nine years in time for the next cycle. Regular harvesting helps improve the tree’s health and vigour and remarkably boosts the tree’s carbon consumption by three to five times.

This is because the tree must absorb more CO2 to turn it into energy to grow back its lost bark.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the cork oak tree. For each ton of cork harvested, the cork forest absorbs 70 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere*. This means that a single cork represents 70 times its own weight in carbon sequestering and thus plays a very important role in the ecological balance of our planet.


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