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MYRTLE BURLS

Umbellularia californica

DESCRIPTION:
Myrtle Burl is a tree native to coastal forests of western North America. It is the sole species in the genus Umbellularia. It ranges near the coast from Douglas County, Oregon south through California to San Diego County. It is also found in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It occurs at altitudes from sea level up to 1600 m.

Myrtle Burl is commonly referred to California Bay Laurel (its pungent leaves have a similar flavor), California Bay, California Laurel, Spice Tree, Pepperwood and Headache Tree (the last from the strong scent of the crushed foliage, which can cause a headache if breathed in to excess).

The thick sapwood is pale brown and is not clearly demarcated from the heartwood. The heartwood is rich golden brown to yellowish green, and is often variegated. It is reported to darken considerably when water soaked. The grain is generally straight, but is often irregular or wavy. It is described as close, tight, and smooth. Myrtle Burl is reported to be highly prized for its excellent and swirling stumpwood, clusters, and burls. Material from Oregon is reported to exhibit attractive mottled figures which range from fine, delicate dark stripes to heavy splotches, occasionally marked with gold and silver streaks.

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