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La Chênaie

In pursuit of liber cambium

15 February 2024

It seems as if the sun had been ordered on purpose for this morning spent harvesting liber cambium, the ultra-moisturizing active ingredient in La Chênaie’s PETRASEVE® line, which is harvested once a year in the Bertranges forest.


The shipment had been planned for just over a week. Given the recent weather, rain gear and boots were highly recommended. But the sun was really shining on this mild Monday morning. What better way to start the week than with a walk in forest. Today’s goal: to harvest 10 kilos of Liber Cambium. Four of us.


Plane shot

Leaving Murlin, we head for plot 327, in Saint-Aubin-lès-Forges. David Dautelle, in charge of green spaces for Charlois Group, is the master of ceremonies. Distribution of planes and bags destined to receive fruits of day’s harvest. A few instructions before getting started. “We only harvest from trees that have already fallen, and from sessile oaks* only”. David straddles a roadside trunk, gripping the plane with both hands. “First, we remove the bark, taking care not to cut too deep. We massage wood. The plane’s inclination is important at this point”. Remove just the necessary bark to obtain the wood’s substance, the liber cambium, which has a slightly pinkish tinge. “You need to clear a large surface to be able to take strips of liber cambium, strips a few millimeters thick between the bark and the heartwood”. Tilt the plane, but not too much, enter the bark and gently pull back the tool. It looks simple enough, if you’re used to it.


Demonstration by example

There’s nothing like demonstration by example. I spot the tree I want, put on my rain cape and sit on the trunk, with David’s advice in mind. I take my plane, stretch out my arms as far as I can, place my tool against the bark, tilting it slightly to remove the bark. I pull on my arms to bring the tool towards me, feeling a bit of resistance. It’s not as easy as it looked. It will take several attempts before I get to grips with it. A feeling of pride comes over me as I take my first strip of liber cambium. A few drops of sweat bead my forehead. This is only the beginning. I remember this expression “you have to suffer to be beautiful”. I get used to handling the plane. The bag fills up little by little. The same goes for those of my colleagues who are a little, if not a lot, ahead of me.


1 kilo weighing

Back to the truck for weighing. The first to be harvested contain between 1 and 2 kilos of precious wood from which sap will be extracted. I put mine down, 700 grams. Not enough. I go back, my arms already aching, with the idea of going over a kilo. I switch trunks. And always the same gesture. Four picking episodes take place at the beginning of each year. Today is the last one. 40 kilos will have been harvested and processed in the Murlin lab. “We only do one campaign a year for this extract. Later on, buds will be harvested in March or April, followed by leaves in May. At the moment, we’ve harvested all kilos needed for the season. Bags are marked, dated, weighed and identified. Mine shows 1.198 kilos. Satisfaction at a job well done. Off to the lab for delivery. Cold-pressing of the harvested fruit will take place the following day. To be continued…


Stéphane Ebel



*Rare and precious oaks, 100% of which will be recycled as stave wood for barrel production for wines and spirits, railroad sleepers, landscape sleepers, timber and other oenological products.

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