cork bark harvest quercus suber

Harvesting Cork Bark

cork bark oak tree
One of our favorite and most versatile mediums for displaying air plants is our natural and rustic cork bark! With display options consisting of slabs to mount vertically, hollow vases for table-top décor, magnetic wine cork planters, or using small pieces as accents in terrariums, the cork bark provides endless opportunities for showing off Tillandsia and other epiphytes such as orchids and staghorn ferns. We find that what makes this product truly admirable is the process by which it is harvested. Ample time and manpower are required to bring each unique piece of cork bark from the forests in Portugal to our home displays. Here we will explore the skilled profession of harvesting that has been passed down through generations for hundreds of years!

The Process

cork bark oak tree sustainable harvest
Cork bark and its various products come from the evergreen cork oak tree. Cork refers to the outermost bark of the cork oak which is the only type of tree that can withstand the stripping process and regenerate its bark. The ancient practice has produced cork commercially for about 300 years, and still to this day, the cork bark is stripped by hand with no mechanics involved! It all starts in sustained and monitored cork oaks forests. Once a tree is 15-20 years old, it is ready for its first harvest. In mid-summer months, skilled laborers use axes to split, chisel, and peel the bark from the trunk and major branches while leaving the live part of the tree unharmed – as you can see in the image on the right. This first harvest is referred to as ‘virgin cork’ which is what we use for our slabs and vases. It is also commonly used for flooring and insulation. This early batch does not have the texture or quality that is required for cork stoppers which it is most often known for, so any remains will be ground up and used for other purposes. The tree will then be marked with paint to indicate the year of the harvest and left for nine to ten years to regenerate until the second harvest occurs. The third harvest, after another nine to ten years, will finally produce the cork that is suitable for stoppers. After each harvest, the cork bark strips will be left in the forest and exposed to sunlight, wind, and rain. This weathering process will occur for about six months until the cork is ready to be sorted, sized and sold. 
cork bark tree oak harvest sustainable

Cork oak trees will continue to regenerate and can provide cork for about 12-15 harvests, around 150 years. This sustainable, renewable, and no-waste process of harvesting cork bark adds charm and earns a true appreciation of this natural and multi-functional product!

To shop our DIY vertical displays and cork bark vases, check out our various listings here. We also sell a variety of sizes of cork bark slabs by the pound for wholesale customers. Interested in pre-assembled mini cork bark displays for corporate gifting? Email customer service at to discuss our various options. Also, check out our new magnetic wine corks, just in from Portugal! 

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