One day last July, I stopped over lunch at Houghton’s Pond in the Blue Hills Reservation outside Boston to let Musti and Luc stretch their legs and pee on trees for a few minutes.  As we were walking, I saw an oddly damaged white oak tree.

Vandalized white oak tree with pond in the background

As we got closer, I realized that someone had gone at it with a chainsaw, attempting to cut off a large burl from the base of the trunk.

Oak trunk with insect-damaged burl beside it

Late last year, a number of stories in the local media suggested  that the illicit removal of burls from public trees was becoming  an epidemic.  The Boston Globe described a chainsaw-wielding thief cutting burls off trees in the Fenway Victory Gardens, and another story described similar vandalism in Mount Auburn Cemetery.  In this case, the would-be thief abandoned his effort when he (why can we always assume that’s the correct pronoun?) saw that the burl had been thoroughly chewed over, probably by carpenter ants.

Insect-damaged white oak burl cut from tree


The wood from an intact white oak burl can be spectacular, and spectacularly expensive, but geez, can’t people stick to stealing copper out of abandoned factories?

closeup of white oak burl grain structure