What Is Burl?

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Blog entry by OregonBurls posted 09-08-2012 05:51 PM 18823 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

What Is Burl?

I have discovered that this question is the most searched question for burls on the internet. Over 140,000 times world wide per month.

So I read what Wikipedia’s definition is and found out that they are not clear and in some details are wrong in their definition. So I am going to attempt to clear the muddy waters.

First of all Wikipedia says: “A burl (American English) or bur or burr (used in all non-US English speaking countries) is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. TRUE It is commonly found in the form of a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch that is filled with small knots from dormant buds. False A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. TRUE It may be caused by an injury, virus or fungus. AND I WOULD ADD iNJURY DUE TO FIRE, BUG, TREE RUBBING EVEN WEED WHACkERS ETC. Most burls grow beneath the ground, attached to the roots as a type of malignancy that is generally not discovered until the tree dies or falls over. FALSE AT LEASE IN THE AREAS I HAVE SEEN. Such burls sometimes appear as groups of bulbous protrusions connected by a system of rope-like roots. THIS HAPPENS SOMETIME.I HAVE SEEN IT IN MANZANITA BURL Almost all burl wood is covered by bark, even if it is underground. Insect infestation and certain types of mold infestation are the most common causes of this condition.” ONCE AGAIN NOT IN MY EXPERIENCE.

So here is my definition of a “What is burl”:

A burl is a growth on or at the base of the tree and sometimes under the ground that is due to damage to the tree. The tree started to heal itself and forgets to stop healing.

Burls are not always formed because of the injury. You can see an example from a branch being pruned off. When a branch is healed over in my opinion, is not a burl which is commonly mistaken. Yes it has some figure in it but not as a burl would have.

I have seen what I call “Sucker Burls” in box elder where there is multiple buds growing in the burl which makes for an additional niceness in the figure and color.

You have different kinds of burl
• Pen Burl
o Tubes that grow from the point of injury out
o Lace figure that frames the tubes
• Swirl burl
o Figure is in a swirly patter but no “pen”
o Another name “Konk” or “Bunion”
• Root Burl
o Grows under the ground sometimes deep as a big onion
o Grows on the root itself
o Both for the most part are pin burl
o You will always have good figure in root systems due to the compression in the corners of root.

I did forget to mention the Cluster log. which is burls all the way up the tree in clusters.

Don’t mistake figure in the wood for burling. That is another article for a later time.

Would love your insight and comments.

Best Regards,
Greg Dahl

-- Greg, Southern Oregon, What can I say but God Is Good!

9 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3548 days

#1 posted 09-08-2012 06:18 PM

Great explanation Greg…! I have often wondered as to their origin and causes.

View Kookaburra's profile


748 posts in 2464 days

#2 posted 09-08-2012 06:24 PM

I thank you too. I was in the camp that assumed burls could be from cutting off a branch. I like learning new stuff.

Your picture is quite interesting – I know I have never seen anything like that! Before approaching that tree, what would you expect to find under the surface? What would you think caused that?

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View thedude50's profile


3607 posts in 2718 days

#3 posted 09-08-2012 07:10 PM

thanks ps love the burl i got from you

-- Please check out my new stores and

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4258 posts in 2801 days

#4 posted 09-08-2012 07:26 PM

All I can say is I have always wanted to try a Redwood burl or Red Big Leaf maple burl. I think they have to be the most petty I have seen.

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View OregonBurls's profile


580 posts in 3388 days

#5 posted 09-08-2012 08:45 PM

thanks guys! here is a maple burl I just love! You can see the lace and pin that I am talking about

-- Greg, Southern Oregon, What can I say but God Is Good!

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4258 posts in 2801 days

#6 posted 09-08-2012 08:49 PM


That is just not nice showing me that pic. I can just imigian what I could turn with that. I have tons of wood around me, however, I have to buy everything due to being in a wheelchair now from the bombing.

You have a sweet piece of wood there my friend.


-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View rustfever's profile


763 posts in 3550 days

#7 posted 09-08-2012 11:10 PM

You state a burl is from the base of the tree or even underground. I have seen otherwise. I was just given two Big Leaf or Western Mable trees that have multiple burls. One tree has three. One about 6’ off the ground, one about 10’ off the ground and the third at around 22’ .

I do not know if this is an amomoly [sp?] or just not commom. but it has happened.

The trees come from the Kalama Washington area.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View OregonBurls's profile


580 posts in 3388 days

#8 posted 09-09-2012 03:10 AM

Yes. that is called a cluster log. I did forget to add that to the description.

-- Greg, Southern Oregon, What can I say but God Is Good!

View mafe's profile


11771 posts in 3329 days

#9 posted 09-09-2012 03:12 PM

Interesting, thx.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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