Burls are enlarged lumps, containing buds like the eyes of a potato, which grow on tree trunks. The term is also applied to any unusual growth on trunks, roots or branches and burls are found on a variety of trees. Burls grow along with the tree, building new growth rings which are further apart than the trees normal rings because the growth is more rapid. They are also called knots, burrs or galls. On oak trees, they develop from an infection caused by a fungus, and, while they may result from injuries, burns, insect or bacteria infestation or friction to other species of tree, in many cases, the reasons for their development is not known. They have, however, been highly valued for thousands of years, and veneers, cut from rare burls, have been found decorating fine furniture found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Over the centuries they have been sought out by artisans for many other decorative items including musical instruments and ornaments.
Different trees produce burls with different characteristics. Those on west coast redwoods can grow to more than six feet thick and the heavy dark wood grain is highly treasured. Black walnut and black cherry burls are prized for their rich colors and strange distortions. Maple burls, especially those from the northwest big leaf maple, are among the largest and best in the world.
Burls may be fashioned into useful or decorative items as they are, sliced for veneering or turned. At Forest Designs, we create burl products which remain as close to the original shape and dimensions of the burl as possible in the creation of decor items for home and office.