This branch, found a week ago now, was a mystery for awhile, but then I accidentally identified it while looking up something about paperbark trees, which are in some ways related. Callistemon, or Bottlebrush Trees, in the Myrtaceae family, are – like many LA trees – native to Australia. My coworker and officemate, who knows about my log and tree-collecting shenanigans told me one morning that the city had roped off a big branch that had fallen. He saw it on his drive in to work.
Later in the day I took a walk to that area, bringing my handy Irwin coarse-cut carpenter saw with me, tucked into my pants under my coat, gangster style. It was bigger than I thought. I cleaned it up, and carried the rather large log back to the office and my waiting car, 0.83 miles away (I measured later on Google Maps). I’d say it was about an 80lbs log, more than 10’ long, and required quite a bit of freeing with the saw from its plume of foliage, so naturally, I was dirty, sweaty, worn, and bleeding by the time I got back to the office. It took 2 days for the pains in my shoulders and neckbone to go away, but I had fun the whole time, so I’m not complaining :)
Here’s what I found. At this point I was thinking “I shoulda drove here…”
I took some pics of the tree so you guys could help me ID it, but then I accidentally solved it (sorry!). It would appear that of the 34 current species in the genus Callistemon, this is C. citrinus. These pics from Cuyamaca College’s Ornamental Horticulture 170 class are all spot-on matches. However, other pages, such as this one show it as more of a shrub, so Cuyamaca’s classification could be off. As usual, I wish for complete, definitive guides, but don’t find them. Most pages agree that “Callistemon” comes from the Greek words “calli,” “kalli,” or “callos” (“beautiful”) + “stemon” (stamen), as it is the stamen of the plants that appears as a beautiful red or white plume, like a pipe cleaner.
Here are some shots of the leaves, twigs, and berry-like seed pods:
And here was the real giveaway, and the reason it’s called a Bottlebrush:
I skipped shots of all the cuttings-up action, but I learned something: When you carry a huge log through a neighborhood, people talk to you. No one ever talks to me in public, especially in LA, but while cutting the twigs free, an older couple walked past, and the woman remarked to me “That thing just fell down in the wind, didn’t it?” Walking back, an older Asian man looked delighted, and asked “Did you pick that up all by yourself?” Shortly thereafter I heard a woman laughing, and found her sitting on the steps in front of her building. “How far do you have to carry that? Are you going to be okay?” There were several more on the walk back. The guy in the gatehouse at my company, who’s never spoken to me before even leaned out of the window to ask “What in the world!?” Not too many people carrying limbs back to office buildings full of computers and nerds :) The only one person who didn’t talk to me was the beautiful, shapely young woman in skin-tight exercise outfit who walked past me, who for whatever reason was lightly glaring, as though I’d just stolen the limb from her private collection. Oh well…
Here’s how the final branch looked, back at work, near my ‘00 Ford Focus hatchback:
I wouldn’t even close to fit in the car, but the Irwin saw had it chopped up in a few minutes. I love that thing. The inside reminded me a lot of some Junipers I’ve seen:
And here’s how it looked cut up and stacked in the hatchback:
Did I mention I’m pricing trucks right now? I left before anyone could link me to this mess at my office:
Checking was evident less than a full day later. Time to get these things sealed up:
A neat feature of this tree is the seed pods. They grow on pretty much every size part of the tree:
And now for some very pretty cross sections of the smaller pieces:
Here’s my little trimming setup, with a drill press vise, clamps, and pull saw, on my circular saw table:
I’ve taken lately to dipping branches in Rockler Green Wood End Sealer, and starting last night (on more Eucalyptus), Anchorseal. This shot is of the former, as the Anchorseal only came in 2 days ago:
This shot of the bark of a small piece really reminds me of this macro shot of a human iris:
This is what I ended up with of the small pieces, cut into small turning blanks and sealed up:
Next step was to start peeling bark off the big pieces, to get to the wood beneath…
The bark was amazing, and reminded me of bacon underneath. Mmm… bacon:
The limb had rippling, fabric-like folds in it underneath the bark, which of course were wooden and solid:
I cleaned up the torn end that had been connected to the tree, revealing some dark red heartwood:
The outer bark peels away with about the same resistance as fresh corn husks, but the last, lowest layers really hold on. If you can manage to peel them, and the cambial layer off, as I could on the lower piece here, you find a very smooth wood beneath:
Here’s the result of stripping the bark from the large limb chunks:
I believe the little spiky nodes found under the large limbs’ bark are seed pods forming:
In real life, these colors are much more vivid. Also, that cut is still healing, a week later:
Note where the pith is on these, and see how eccentrically the rings can grow:
My garage was quite a mess after cleaning up the branch, not to mention all the Eucalyptus crap:
Everything is sealed up now:
One last shot of the bacon-like inner-bark:
I made a cool discovery several days ago. Bottlebrush bark is aromatic. It almost has a barbecue-smoke smell to it. I burned a piece as a test, and it gave off a church incense smell! I quickly gathered all the bark into a pile, and even took the pile the gardeners had thrown out back out of the green recycling bin to add to my stash. This stuff may come in handy. I just have to read up on its toxicity, and whether or not it can be used for smoking meat, or even distilled for its essential oils.
Believe it or not, there are more pictures in the flickr set, though not many more :) All this limb and tree finding, project working, and photo uploading and commenting has me a bit backed up on new material. Hopefully lots more to come, including some projects again finally.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator