Suddenly we were among them: black tree stumps, often still with crown, but dead. Young plants on the ground indicate the fire was some time ago. The surroundings look bare: few tall trees. If there was forest here, it is gone now. A little further on new planting does take place, again eucalyptus, haven’t they learned anything from all those fires? We see little evidence that these trees serve an economic purpose. Once we come across a truck with thin eucalyptus trunks on it. At villages there are signs with an arrow indicating the degree of danger of forest fires: currently green. Here and there a roundabout is decorated with tributes to the fire brigade. We see houses and entire villages in the middle of the burnt areas. What fear they must have had! Along the road, a wide area is now clearly kept clear of planting, so that lesson has been learned. It is dry and dusty here. The temperature is around 30 degrees. There used to be deciduous forests here I have read. It will be quite a task to bring those back. If those eucalyptus and pine trees are of primary economic importance here, the task will only get bigger…
Olive trees seem to have better resistance to fire: many already have shoots with leaves again. But we also see charred remains. They are also quite far apart, perhaps further apart than in Greece.
Indeed, we have recently started to see olive trees again. Agaves and citrus trees are also back. New are the kiwi plants. We have not seen these elsewhere in Europe. We see an occasional orchard, but more often they are in a garden or are part of the fence that separates the garden from the road.
A little further south, we notice that the bark has been removed from the lower part of the trees. Surely pest control was done by painting them white? Trees die when you take the bark off, don’t they? When we stop in the shade of one to have a drink, we see that it is not an olive tree. We grab a phone and consult the identifier app. It turns out to be a cork oak! That explains it. We also read the the bark makes them very resilient to fire. Again a little later, we drive past a cork processing company. It has a huge outdoor area filled with piles of bark. We read on the internet that you can strip a tree of its bark once every 8 to 10 years and that you have to wait around 25 years for new plantings to be of any use.
Given the scale of that one firm, there should be huge plantations of cork oaks, but we didn’t see any. On the contrary, they seem to be quite far apart among other plantings. Perhaps so safe in relation to resistance to pests and fires. Every cork tree does get used we notice in the park where we take siesta and even at the campsite they have all been stripped of their lower piece of bark. Cutting it off seems to take a lot of skill and be labour-intensive. We like the thought that no forests need to be cut down and replanted for this material.
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