Differences between holm oak and cork oak

Holm oak

Holm oak

Surely you have ever been confused when saying oak or cork oak because the differences are sometimes not entirely clear. In this article we are going to teach you to learn to differentiate them correctly.

Do you want to know what they are the differences between holm oak and cork oak? Read on to find out 🙂

Main differences

Cork oak

Cork oak

It is normal to have doubts between these two species since they both belong to the Quercus genus. Holm oaks are Quercus ilex L.. and they exist in great variability in Spain. The cork oak, with a scientific name Quercus suberIt has a more stable evolution since there are not so many varieties.

It is difficult to find natural specimens of these species. Most are altered by the hand of man. However, we will see the main differences.


The first is at the foliar level. It is that the leaves of the cork oaks have a wafer shape and the secondary veins, parallel and rectilinear with the leaf margin. In the oaks, we find the entire leaves with a smooth edge.


Both Quercus are quite large, as long as they have enough room to grow. In the case of the holm oak (Quercus ilex), it can reach between 16 and 25 meters in height, while the cork oakQuercus suber) measures between 6 and 20 meters.


Both the cork oak and the holm oak are related by environmental needs. On the one hand, holm oak is less demanding in terms of humidity and adapts quite well to subcontinental environments. Within the Iberian Peninsula we have this characteristic climate.


Furthermore, the cork oak does present less resistance to cold and prefers a somewhat more sandy soil texture. Therefore, we do not find it in the central areas of the peninsula, but are more in the coastal areas or closer relatively to the coast.

Distribution area

So, only with the area of ​​distribution we can find the clear differences of both species. The cork oak we can find them in troughs and shady places with a little more humidity, but without frequent frosts, while the oak will be on drier, sunnier slopes.

What uses are they given?

Both the oak and the cork oak have several uses for people:

Uses of oak

View of the oak

Image - Wikimedia / Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

Holm oak is used as an ornamental plant, especially as an isolated specimen. Over time it becomes a very pleasant shade. But, without a doubt, if it is known for something, it is for its fruits, acorns, which serve as food.

In addition, wood is used to make pieces that have to withstand a lot of friction, such as carts, tools, etc. It is very hard and takes a long, long time to rot, which is why it is highly prized, although difficult to work with.

In Morocco, the bark is used in tanneries, for tanning leather. Also, if you mix it with crushed acorns and leaves and cook the whole thing, the end result is a natural disinfectant remedy.

Quercus rotundifolia, is the scientific name of an evergreen tree
Related article:
Holm oak (Quercus ilex)

Cork oak uses

View of the cork oak

Image - Wikimedia / Jean-Pol GRANDMONT

Its main use is cork, which is extracted from the trunk. It is used to seal alcoholic beverages, especially champagne, liqueurs and cavas; although also to make shoe and wardrobe templates, and decorative objects.

Although no, cork is not everything. With the wood, charcoal is made, and its fruits, although bitter, can be consumed.

View of a magnificent specimen of cork oak or Quercus suber
Related article:
Cork oak, the cork tree

What are your holm oak and cork oak cultivation needs?

To finish this article, if you would like to have a holm oak or a cork oak, we recommend that you provide the following care according to its needs:


They are trees that they have to be abroad, in full sun (especially in the case of holm oaks) or in semi-shade, and at a distance of at least 7 meters (better 10m) from pipes, paved floors, etc.


The earth must be rich in organic matter, with good drainage and deep.


Holm oak is a tree that resists periods of drought well, so the frequency of irrigation that we will have with it will not be the same as that with the cork oak.

Thus, while the first will be enough to water it about 2 times a week, the cork oak may need 3-4 irrigations during the summer, and 1-2 / week the rest of the year.


The cork oak is a Mediterranean tree

During the growing season, that is, from spring to late summerIt is advisable to fertilize them with guano, mulch, compost or worm humus.

Planting or transplanting time

En spring, when the frosts have passed.


both are resistant to cold and frost well. However, keep in mind that holm oak resists up to -18ºC, but cork oak up to -12ºC. In contrast, the holm oak can live without problems in exposed areas, but the cork oak prefers somewhat protected places.

I hope that with this information I have clarified the doubts between the holm oak and the cork oak, two trees as similar as different autochthonous of the Mediterranean region.

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  1.   Fabian mannise said

    Very good and accurate all the information that is provided. Despite being a technician in Horticulture and Gardening, I always apprehend something. In me they have a safe reader. Greetings