National Park Service
A redwood scarred by the removal of a burl, a knobby growth that contains a dormant seed and is the trees' main form of reproduction.

Desperate Poachers Hack Burls From Iconic Redwoods for Cash


California’s iconic redwoods are being gnawed apart, seed by dormant seed, by jobless or drug-addicted, desperate people using chainsaws to hack off coveted knobby growths at the trees’ base and selling them to furniture makers.

The growths, called burls, are redwoods’ primary means of reproduction. The poaching is not a new practice but it’s at a new level. It has gotten so bad that the National Park Service announced on February 28 that it is closing the scenic Newton B. Drury Parkway every night as of Saturday March 1.

“Illegal redwood poaching impacts one of the most sensitive resources in Redwood National & State Parks, a designated World Heritage and International Biosphere Reserve, injuring live trees that can live up to 2,000 years old, but also causing related impacts to scenic qualities and threatening endangered species,” the Park Service said in a statement. “Most of the illegal poaching occurs at night. While regrettable, this closure is a proactive step toward preserving California’s and our nation’s irreplaceable natural treasures.”

Redwood burls sell for $ to $3 per pound, and are known for their unique swirling or mottled grain. Besides cutting off access for would-be poachers, the highway closure may also prompt consumers to question where the burls making their furniture came from, authorities said. There are legal sources, such as trees on private land, though supplies are limited.

“Woodworkers prize the burls, which tend to cluster near the base of the tree but can appear farther up the trunk,” reported National Geographic. “They like the swirling grain patterns, particularly the circular shapes called ‘eyes,’ and turn the burls into furniture, bowls, clocks, and knickknacks.”


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