What is a Burl?

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Sun, 02/05/2017 - 3:31pm

What is a Burl?

February 05, 2017 - 15:31
Burl can grow in very unique shapes and sizes. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

Photography by Alice Mary Herden

What is a Burl?
Have you ever noticed unusual bumps coming out from a tree’s trunk, some maybe small and some maybe large?

Burl is a growth on trees like oaks. Photo by Alice Mary Herden

Those lumps and bumps are called burls and they can affect many types of trees such as oaks, maples and other hardwoods.
“A burl is like a localized cancer, it has no growth pattern… if you have something that causes  the cells to just grow and not follow the normal growth pattern in a long period of time you end up with this big growth on the tree,” explained Master Gardener Bernie Bathauer.
Bathauer has been a Master Gardener at Hernando County Extension for eleven years.
“In a lot of woods when you get the burl, it is very tight and dense. That is why they used them to make pipes,” Bathauer said.
Woodcrafters use the wild grain patterns, curls and combinations of unusual growth to create pipes, tables and other pieces of woodwork.
Burls can be many sizes, in fact the largest burl was found in Vancouver Island, Canada weighing over 20 tons! That burl had been growing at the base of a 35 year old spruce tree, which was  271 feet high and 6 feet in diameter at the cut of the burl.
Although burls do not hurt the tree, if it is removed from the tree, the open wound will most likely become infected.
So next time when you see that bump emerging from a tree’s trunk you will know what it is.