Cork is actually the bark of a tree commonly referred to as a 'cork oak'. This tree grows in the Mediterranean region primarily in Portugal and Spain and in some of the northern areas of Africa. It is unique to these areas due to climatic and soil conditions.

Cork is one of nature's wonder products and is truly a natural renewable resource. Approximately every 9 to 15 years the bark of a cork tree will start to split depending upon its growth and the effects of climatic conditions, and the bark can safely be removed primarily from the whole trunk of the tree and the lower sections of the main heavy trunk branches. After this bark is removed, the tree is tagged with the year of harvest and the tree will slowly regrow the bark over the next 9 to 15 years and again be ready for another harvest. No harm is done to the trees and they live for up to 400 years depending upon the region and climate.

A new tree is not ready for the first harvest until 25 to 40 years of growth. The first harvest of the bark from a new tree is rough and lumpy and is referred to as 'virgin cork'. It is used primarily in ground up granular form for the substrate of cork floor tiles and for other cork products consisting of granular type cork.

In Portugal, there are a number of cork oak forests and all trees are harvested at the proper times including those in private yards. All trees are protected by government regulations, and a dead cork oak tree requires government inspection and authority before it may be cut down and removed. Efforts are in place for the planting of new trees and for increasing the number of trees.