Tree Burls: Prized Abnormalities

Near the path along the river in Eliza Howell Park is a tree with a large, rounded, bark-covered growth (about 2 feet across) near the ground. A growth like this on a tree, called a burl, might be compared to a benign tumor, an abnormal mass that is not likely to do harm to the organism as a whole.

Most burls in the park are not this large and it is easy to walk by a tree burl without really noticing it. One day earlier this winter I took a “burl walk,” searching both for quantity and variety. Though I found several that I was not aware of previously, I realized that they are not all that common and I confirmed that they are not restricted to a few tree species and that they take a variety of shapes.

I noted above that it is easy to walk by without noticing burls. But that doesn’t happen when walking with a woodworker, someone who knows that the grain patterns in burl wood are very different from normal wood and can result in fascinating art. A woodworker is quick to spot and point out a burl.

Readers interested in seeing why burls are prized by woodworkers might google “burl bowls” or something similar.

Since the day of my burl walk, I have gone bsck to take another look at a couple trees I found. One is a young tree, with a burl larger than the trunk.

Another tree that I have returned to is a larger one with many different burls covering much of the trunk.

Burls are thought to be the result of abnormal bud growth, but apparently no one has been able to stimulate such growth delibetately. This prized wood needs to be found in natural settings.

i am not a woodworker, but I have come to prize burls also. They are another of the many natural wonders in this local park.

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