Cork Development: What Lies Within

Plants (Basel). 2022 Oct 11;11(20):2671. doi: 10.3390/plants11202671.


The cork layer present in all dicotyledonous plant species with radial growth is the result of the phellogen activity, a secondary meristem that produces phellem (cork) to the outside and phelloderm inwards. These three different tissues form the periderm, an efficient protective tissue working as a barrier against external factors such as environmental aggressions and pathogen attacks. The protective function offered by cork cells is mainly due to the abundance of suberin in their cell walls. Chemically, suberin is a complex aliphatic network of long chain fatty acids and alcohols with glycerol together with aromatic units. In most woody species growing in temperate climates, the first periderm is replaced by a new functional periderm upon a few years after being formed. One exception to this bark development can be found in cork oak (Quercus suber) which display a single periderm that grows continuously. Quercus suber stands by its thick cork layer development with continuous seasonal growth. Cork raw material has been exploited by man for centuries, especially in Portugal and Spain. Nowadays, its applications have widened vastly, from the most known product, stoppers, to purses or insulating materials used in so many industries, such as construction and car production. Research on how cork develops, and the effect environmental factors on cork oak trees is extremely important to maintain production of good-quality cork, and, by maintaining cork oak stands wealthy, we are preserving a very important ecosystem both by its biodiversity and its vital social and economic role in areas already showing a population declination.

Keywords: cork; exploitation; phellem; phellogen; stress; suberin.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.