As if invasive species, life-threatening diseases and record-breaking drought weren’t enough to deal with, trees now have a new threat to fear: burl thieves. Arborists in the Boston area were baffled when they began noticing that burls had been removed from trees around the city beginning last spring. From Brookline to Watertown and all over the city, trees were being assaulted, including a historic 100-plus-year-old oak that was hit twice – the second burl-cutting severely damaged the tree and revealed rot inside. Burls are highly sought after in the woodworking and sculpture market for their unique grain patterns, and can sell for hundreds of dollars. The wood is then used to craft everything from bowls to furniture and interiors in luxury cars. While a buzzing chain saw may seem like an dead giveaway, and the burl bandits acted in broad daylight, they often dressed in arborist attire, including orange safety gear, leading the public to assume they were performing legitimate work. Police asked the public for help, and fortunately, a keen-eyed citizen (a plant and soil scientist) noticed a couple men with chain saws standing over a beautifully patterned piece of red oak in the park and called police. Police arrested Michael Scanlan, who was charged with willful and malicious destruction of property; they suspect he was selling the burls for drug money. The detrimental effects that the burl removals will have on the trees will not be evident for years, but it’s likely they will contribute to the death of the trees. In a city renowned for its public green spaces, you can be sure residents will be vigilant in protecting their urban forest from another tree crime spree.

Coming in December

Next month will be our last issue of the year, and what better way to close out 2012 then our annual All-Industry Directory. We’ll feature product listings and contact information for companies serving the tree care industry – all the information you need to get geared up for 2013. So, whether you’re looking to purchase a chipper, get the whole crew matching uniforms, or even update your insurance policy, we’ll have what you need in the December issue.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy Thanksgiving spent with family and friends!

Katie Meyers