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What Is a Cork Tree?

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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2014
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The cork tree is a genus, or group, of tree species that is related to the citrus family. They are native to Asia, but are also found in Russia and the United States. These are typically medium-sized trees with a cork-like bark, light-colored leaves, and dark berries. It is often confused with the cork oak, but is not actually related to this specimen and is not harvested for making cork board. The bark of this tree is, however, used for making dyes and in a variety of medicines.

This plant can grow anywhere from 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m) in height. It might also spread from 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 m) in width. The trunk of the tree is usually wide and straight, with sturdy upper branches.

The leaves of a cork tree are normally oval-shaped and light green in color. They tend to have brown splotches in late summer and then turn yellow in the fall. Since this plant is deciduous, the leaves typically fall off in late autumn and grow back in the spring each year.

In late summer, berries usually form on the tree. They are normally found in tight clusters just below the leaves. They are dark purple or black in color. The fruit is not normally harvested for human consumption, but may be eaten by birds and small wildlife.

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The cork tree typically has white, cream, or yellow-colored flowers in early spring. These blooms are normally less than 0.39 inches (1 cm) in diameter. They also have five tiny petals each, and are positioned atop long green stems.

The bark of this ornamental plant is typically gray or light brown in color. It normally has a very rugged appearance and might even have deep vertical grooves on the trunk. The inside of the bark sometimes contains a yellow powder that can be used for dying cloth or yarn.

Various parts of this plant are often used in traditional Chinese medicine. The bark and oil from the fruit are sometimes used to treat stomach disorders, high blood pressure, and to regulate the immune system. These plant extracts might also contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

In the New England region of the United States, the cork tree is considered to be an invasive species. This is because it often suppresses the growth of native hardwoods, such as maple and ash. People who are considering planting one of these types of plants might want to consider whether or not it could harm indigenous vegetation in the area.

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