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This is an unhappy dried cork oak.

As my previous post, this was one of my earlier photos shot digitally.

I have two more recent posts with the same the (i and ii).

The place is a few Km's from the tiny village of Pé da Serra, which is part of the concelho (county?) of Nisa, near the road to the village of Salavessa.

It could have been shot in many locals in the portuguese region of Alentejo and even in others areas of Portugal or the nearby Spanish Extremadura, Andalucia or Castilla-Leon, as it's a very common type of landscape in these regions.

Cork oaks are very important in local economies, as they produce cork, a rather lucrative material (at least compared with other alternative sources of income) and their fruits (a kind of acorn) are very good for pig food. Actually pigs prefer the acorn of the holm oak (Quercus rotundifolia), which is very similar to cork oak, except that it doesn't produce cork.

Both trees, although still very common, are somewhat menaced, as with the abandonment of country side by people, the owners tend not paying much attention to them and most of them prefer to have their land covered with eucalyptus, a much more lucrative tree in the short therm. Oaks need literally douzens of years to be productive, while eucalyptus can be shopped a few years after it's planted. The downside of eucalyptus is that besides damaging the beauty of the landscape, it dries and acidifies the land, making it dificult to other plants to grow even after it's cut.

Cork is the rind of this trees and it's collected every 8 years or so (it depends a bit on the place and on the owner, sometimes it's less, others it's more) and then it's processed to make a variety of things, like corks for bottles and floors. It's a very good natural thermal insulator and has much resistance to fire (it burns, but it's ignition is very retarded compared to other materials). I know about this a little because I remember cork industry publicizing that they exported cork to be used on space shuttle as a thermal insulator and to Japan, where the building regulations on fire were very strict.

Meat of pigs fed with acorn is very popular in Portugal and Spain, as its flavour doesn't compare with the others and lately because it's believed that is much more healthy than other "red meats". It's eaten either fresh or in smoked sausages and hams.

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Links to Wikipedia: Nisa, Cork Oak, Cork.

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Additional Photos by Jose Pires (stego) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4422 W: 612 N: 7301] (24132)
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