Like redwoods, the cork oak, Quercus suber, is a ‘pyrophyte’, which means that it survives forest fires that burn off competing vegetation. The trunks and main limbs are insulated with a very thick bark. Only the foliage and smaller stems burn off. After a fire, the upper limbs of cork oak regenerate new foliage while other less fortunate plants start over from their roots or seed at ground level.
The thick bark is really what cork oak is grown for. It is used for corks, gaskets, flooring, notice boards, cricket ball cores and too many other products to list. It is also quite handsome on the stout trunks and limbs of landscape trees. If only the acorns were not so messy, cork oak would be a nice drought tolerant street tree with complaisant roots. The hazy evergreen leaves are about two inches long. Old trees eventually get almost fifty feet tall.