This is a tree that takes some time to impress. Bloom is uninteresting. Foliage is no more distinctive than that of coast live oak. Instead, the most spectacular characteristic of cork oak, Quercus suber, is the boldly striated and uniquely spongy texture of its mature bark. Such bark takes a few years to develop, but gets so thick that it seems significantly older.
As its name implies, cork oak had historically been the exclusive source of bark for corks and cork products. As modern and more practical materials diminished demand for such bark, cork oak became more popular as an evergreen shade tree. It is quite happy within the arid chaparral climates of California. In fact, it behaves much like native oak species.
Mature cork oak trees generally stay less than forty feet tall, even if their trunks are wider than three feet with their unusually thick bark. Without excessive irrigation, their roots are notably complaisant. Low branches are more visibly sculptural than high branches. With pruning for adequate clearance though, trees with high branches are striking street trees. Foliar and floral debris is quite messy during spring bloom.