Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Behold the Burl
Behold the burl!
It’s commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds. A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. It may be caused by an injury, virus or fungus.
While some of them look fairly ugly on the outside, when cut open, they’re gorgeous and highly prized! In fact, they’ve been valued for furniture and wood sculpting for centuries! From National Geographic
Burl wood is very hard to work with, its grain is twisted and interlocked, it can chip and shatter unpredictably. On the other hand, this “wild grain” makes burl wood extremely dense and resistant to splitting, which makes it valued for bowls, mallets and mauls.
Take a peek at these bowls and sculptures from West Virginia wood turners Association!
While burls can form on any tree, some are more susceptible than others, so that means they’re rare. Interestingly, these burls don’t harm the tree. As for harvesting a burl, not only will it make the tree look horrible, but it will most likely kill the tree. MadRiverUnion story on the thief that damaged the tree below – eventually this can kill the tree.
It is important to remove the burls of a tree only after the tree is no longer living or is planned to be removed.
According to Kevin Smith, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, they are so valued that they are sometimes the target of thieves.
Ancient redwoods in National Parks in Western United States have recently been poached by thieves for their burls, including at Redwood National and State Parks. redwoodburlpoaching
Poachers often cut off the burls from the sides of the trunks using chainsaws, which exposes the tree to infection and disease, or fell the entire tree to steal burls higher up.
Andrew Pearce Bowls – stunning stuff