Radial variation of vessel size and distribution in cork oak wood (Quercus suber L.)

  • Sofia Leal
  • Vicelina B. Sousa
  • Helena PereiraEmail author


Quercus suber L. is an important species producing cork whose wood characteristics have not been investigated a lot. Cork oak wood vessels are a striking feature and the most abundant wood tissue largely influencing density and permeability. Vessel size and distribution were studied in approximately 40 year-old and never debarked cork oaks by continuously measuring along the radial direction in the transverse section of wood discs taken at 1.3 m of height using image analysis techniques. The vessel size increases with age from 7660 ± 2286 to 21136 ± 6119 μm2, the conductive area from 5.4 ± 2.2 to 11.6 ± 3.9%, and the vessel density remains approximately constant between 5.2 ± 1.5 and 7.3 ± 3.5 vessels/mm2. In comparison with ring-porous and some evergreen oaks, cork oaks show a similar conductive area but smaller vessels. Vessel architecture is known to play an important role on oaks tolerance to hydric stress, and these cork oak trees were growing under very harsh edaphoclimatic conditions, not tolerated by other oaks. The well-developed and deep root system allowing access to constant water supply may contribute to the cork oak’s relatively high conductive area.


Wood Density Vessel Size Vessel Area Conductive Area Wood Vessel 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study is part of the European project Suberwood (QLRT 2000-0701). The first author acknowledges additional funding granted by the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT) under the programme POCI – 2010 Formação Avançada para a CiênciaMedida IV.3. We wish to thank Sofia Knapič and Joana Paulo for providing help during the fieldwork.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sofia Leal
    • 1
  • Vicelina B. Sousa
    • 1
  • Helena Pereira
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Centro de Estudos FlorestaisInstituto Superior de AgronomiaLisboaPortugal

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