Corkwood is a small tree or shrub that commonly reproduces vegetatively, as new trunks begin as suckers and arise from the shallow roots, creating thickets of trees that are all genetic clones of the first one.
Leaves are alternate, simple, at the ends of twigs, 3–6 inches long, 1–3 inches wide, broadest in the middle; margin lacking teeth; upper surface dark olive to dull green; lower surface paler, with long, soft hairs.
Bark is gray to brown, ridges narrow, grooves shallow.
Wood is pale yellow, soft, close-grained, and lightweight.
Twigs are reddish-brown to gray, smooth, finely furrowed, pores numerous. The large flower buds that overwinter resemble small pinecones.
Flowering is in late winter to early spring. Male and female flowers are in catkins on separate trees; catkins flower before the leaves emerge.
Fruit is flattened brown; in clusters of 2–6, ¾ inch long, ¼ to ⅓ inch wide.
At maturity, to 20 feet tall; often forms thickets.
Lowlands of southeastern Missouri.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs in wooded or open wetlands and in wet ditches along roadsides in the lowlands of southeastern Missouri. The species is being monitored since it has a very scattered distribution in widely separated areas of our continent: southeast Missouri, eastern Arkansas, southeast Texas, southern Georgia, and northern Florida. In Missouri, populations have declined as habitat is drained and converted to cropland.
Rare and being monitored; a Species of Conservation Concern in Missouri.
The wood of this small tree is lighter than cork and has been used like cork for such things as bottle stoppers and floats and bobbers for fishing.
Thickets of trees in wet areas provide habitat and safety for many creatures, while also binding the soils, controlling erosion, and contributing to the overall balance of nature.