Saturday, July 9, 2011

Burls, angophoras and red dirt country

I didn't know what a burl was, until we came to live in Mitchell -- in outback Australia. Soon I was to learn that a burl is an unusual growth on a tree trunk or branch, caused by an injury to the limb.

For trees growing alongside the Maranoa River, the injury is usually caused during floods, when logs, propelled by a mighty force of water, crash into trees.

Brian Waldron is a collector of burls and has an enviable collection stacked neatly in his shed. Brian uses the burls to create bowls, ornamental clock mounts, pens, house signs and many other artistic pieces. Last year Doug asked Brian to make me a bowl from an ooline burl, as a birthday present. It's a beautiful centrepiece for our table.

Last week, after a 30 minute drive north of Mitchell, we stopped on a stony hillside of remarkable vegetation that included this angophora with a burl on its trunk. The tree looks ancient, and with its creamy-coloured bark and its roots thrust deeply into red earth, it looks as if it'll live forever. I hope it does.

Sometimes called a smooth-barked apple, this tree's botanical name is Angophora leiocarpa.

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