Log in

Editor's Picks

Pages from Gert's book
It was a great pleasure for me to be able to write about my...
Gert Fortgens | Feb 15, 2024
Quercus marlipoensis acorns
A new study has analyzed the germination characteristics of...
Website Editor | Feb 15, 2024
Gall on Quercus grahamii
A new species of oak gall wasp has been named in honor of...
Website Editor | Feb 14, 2024

Plant Focus

For this Species Spotlight we train our follow spot on an oak that is quite a star of the quercine scene: Quercus hypoleucoides (stage name...

Cork Wars in World War II: Oaks, Espionage and National Security

PDF icon Log in or register to access the full text.

David A. Taylor

Published May 2019 in International Oaks No. 30: 295–300


This paper shares a compelling piece of oak history and California history. In the 1940s, when cork was a modern material crucial to America’s war effort, youth clubs and state governors were planting Quercus suber (cork oaks) to make the country free of dependence on foreign sources.
By 1940 the United States imported nearly half the world’s production of cork, for industries ranging from bottle caps to automobiles, flooring, various forms of insulation, and bomber airplanes. When Germany blockaded the Atlantic trade, the shortage of cork from Europe became a threat to national security. Then when a factory fire in Baltimore stirred an FBI investigation for sabotage, the entire industry was pulled into the war effort, from corporate espionage in Portugal to a nationwide tree-growing campaign.
The paper draws on research from the author’s new book, Cork Wars: Intrigue and Industry in World War II (Taylor 2018). It looks at the system from Portugal’s montado oak forests to the American tree-growing campaign, in which a dozen state governors brandished shovels to promote a patriotic cause. In addition to telling this story, the paper shares the discovery process and research process, from conducting survivor interviews to uncovering declassified records in the National Archives.


Quercus suber, Crown Cork and Seal, Woodbridge Metcalf, McManus Cork Project