Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Anomaly of Nature

Have you noticed that some trees have funky growths on them?
 Wood burls are rounded outgrowths on the trunk or branch of a tree caused by the stress of an injury, virus or fungus.  Often they will grow underground attached to the roots and not be discovered until the tree dies.  Filled with small knots from dormant buds, they look like bumps or wart-like appendages as their growth is stimulated by the tree to isolate and contain the injury.  Most wood burls are covered by bark, including the ones underground.
This one appears to have a face.
Trees that develop a wood burl can remain healthy and continue to grow unless the injury is in a vulnerable spot or becomes so large and heavy as to create additional stress and cause the tree to break apart.
Burls should not be removed from a living tree which will cause a huge open area for decay unless it is on a removable limb, and then proper pruning practices should be observed.
An anomaly of nature, burls yield a peculiar and rare grained wood sought after by wood carvers.  They can be hollowed out to make bowls or to create sculptures for a whimsical touch in the garden.
If large enough, slices can be used for furniture, door inlays, picture frames and other household items.  Burls can come from redwood, walnut, buckeye, maple, teak and other species.
A reader from my weekly gardening column contacted me to share that last summer an old and tall maple with a huge burl on it snapped off in their front yard during a wind storm.  The weight of the outgrowth was estimated at 400-500 pounds.
"Before" submitted by the reader
A friend offered to work with the burl and make a planter stand from it.  After over 100 man hours of debugging, bleaching, sanding and staining, a unique sculpture was created.  The homeowners are very happy with the resulting focal point it adds to their front lawn and garden.  They feel it resembles a Henry Moore piece with implanted images of animals, reptiles and gargoyles depending on an individual’s interpretation.
Having the ability to envision something beautiful and useful made from a large woody outgrowth is a gratifying way to repurpose it.  (from this week's column in "The Gardener's Corner")
I'm linking with:
Fertilizer Friday
Cottage Garden Party


  1. Eucalyptus have them too, especially in arid areas where the trees are exposed to severe water deprivation stress.
    Love the shot with the face. A few years ago I put up a whole post offices.

  2. Oh now isn't that the most interesting thing?

    I knew "burled wood," but never knew what it was - this was quite informative. Thank you, Judith!

  3. Very interesting. My daughter is an arborist. Diagnosing and treating diseased trees is her job. I will have to ask her if she has run into any with burls. The burled planter is very attractive, isn't it.

  4. How interesting! That is definitely a unique piece and quite a conversation piece.

  5. They certainly make for interesting photos, don't they? Love your planter stand.

  6. That is a very cool looking sculpture that was created.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  7. How interesting! I have seen wood carvings done on conks, but nothing like this. Just read the story at Rosella's where their beloved apple tree split and her husband bolted it back together and it has been going along tickety-boo for some years...trees are amazing!

  8. How fascinating, and I love that plant stand made from this unique wood!

  9. I never really knew much about wood burls either, 'til now! That was very informative. And what interesting creation/plant holder!!

  10. I did not know this terminology. Very interesting!

  11. The burled planter is really lovely! Thanks for sharing this interesting information too.
    Hugs, Beth

  12. A very informative post, and love the planter! You said it so perfectly: "Having the ability to envision something beautiful and useful made from a large woody outgrowth is a gratifying way to repurpose it."

  13. Hi Judith,
    I have one I use to hold a large birdhouse. Hubby likes to putter in the woods and found it for me. It sure isn't nice and shiny like your friends, though!

  14. What an interesting post Judith. The burl in the last photo for yard art is really a great idea. There are several wood turners in NB that make bowls out of wood burls. Fascinating.

  15. Those pictures are really unique!! Great share!!
    garden decorations

  16. Such a unique plant stand. Thanks for educating me about wood burls. I didn't know anything about them.

  17. what an interesting project to do with those burls, excellent

  18. Hi Judith
    really nice photos......
    and do not miss..


    it is FUN :)
    Håkan ( The Roseman)

  19. I have never seen one in person, and know they are prized by those who work wood.

  20. How cool! I took a photo of a growth on a tree in Montana. I'll have to hunt for it.


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