The Cork Oak of Portugal

Riding the bus down and along—

Lisbon to Faro on the Algarve coast,

passing through dry, hilly forests—

from the distance of your seat, they

seem to be the same burly oaks

of California—many with canopies

wider than they are tall—called

the “queros suber” cork oaks of Iberia—

thick cushions growing flush around

the trunks—this fine cork trucked on

to Oporto, where reds, whites and rose’

are bottled and sent to a thousand ports.

But one famous tree cannot be missed, as

your bus rumbles along, not far from the E1

Highway, bigger than the rest—oldest

and largest cork tree in the world with

a diameter of 14  feet and a height growing

over 60—see here how just one tree

befriends the wine lovers of the world.

Harvested every ten years, even harvested

20 times, since planted in 1783.

one harvest year produced 2600 pounds,

proving that just one tree can cork a million

bottles of wine; yet birdwatchers say,

this tree is even a greater friend to the

hundreds of songbirds that rest and nest

inside its’ branches—singing out

the morning’s glory of Iberian days, for

as said in the linguistic sounds of this land,

in what the Portuguese call the Whistler Tree—

O grande arvore do assobiador.

Reed Venrick lives in Florida; has visited Portugal several times; usually writes poems with nature themes.