Burrs on trees, and a mystery.

Sometimes I notice something interesting which starts me mulling things over, and this happened recently with burrs. I saw two young trees growing with their bases together – one with a smooth trunk and one very burry. The burry one was burry all the way up the trunk, and was even more burry at the top of the tree. It wasn’t quite clear why the two trees should be so different, but seeing them reminded me of various odd and interesting burrs that I’ve seen around the forest.

I’ve seen many other burrs, often larger, on trees in the forest. Some on dead trees and some on living trees. When they’re on a dead tree, on the trunk or branch, it’s interesting to see how the burr seems to emerge from a point on the trunk or branch, and then wrap around it.

This tree is alive, but has a big hollowing trunk, large dead branches, and lots of large burrs:

Here’s a tree with a really large burr part way up the trunk:

I’ve noticed on some living trees that sometimes the burrs don’t have their bark, and that the living bark on the trunk around them has healed-over edges. The tree in the second photo is interesting – it has two large burrs on the right side. The top burr has no bark, and when I visited it in the autumn I noticed the burr starting to degrade, and saw tiny mushrooms growing on the top. Also interesting – the lower burr (the one with bark on), like the burr in the first photo and other trees that I’ve seen, had weeping black juice coming from right underneath the burr. The fourth photo is of another tree with several large burrs – this burr is decaying and hollow inside – maybe it was like the third photo many decades ago?

And then there’s the big burr mystery… I went to record a tree the other day which was very burry. It was an amazing tree, with so much going on! Mushrooms growing  in the hollowing trunk, a tree slug on the trunk’s bark (even though it was a frosty day) and all sorts of holes and hollows. But the big surprise was when I walked around the other side…

Someone had cut the tree’s burr off! Why would anyone do such a thing?! It must have happened many many years ago, maybe in the extremely distant past. The tree has grown rounded over edges over the edge of the cut burr place, and has even grown another burr partly over it as well. Maybe a landowner wanted some burr wood for an ornamental table? Or for a turned object? Or some other reason? Was it fashionable at some point in the past, I wonder? Burry wood is certainly a type of figured wood much prized today. You can really see the convoluted grain of the wood where the burr has been cut.

I’ve seen this on only one other tree in the forest – there may be others that I’ve not recorded yet, but this seems quite a rare thing. Here’s the other tree – this tree is dead, though you can see by the way that the wood rounds over at the edges of the cut, that it lived for some time after the burr had been removed.

So that’s the burr mystery of Sherwood – when were these burrs cut from the trees, and why?