Once in a Saturday morning me and my colleague were catching some inspiration in Richmond park. Jackie pointing to the direction of the tumour on the oak, asked – “What’s that?”. “Cancer” – I said with a smile.
Can plants get cancer? Firstly we need to define cancer. It’s a group of diseases with the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. And in plants, that can happen— kind of.
Tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed way Trees get cancer, but the tumours can’t metastasise (spread to other parts of the tree) because the cells are enclosed by hard cell walls, which means they can’t migrate to other areas of the tree. So even when cells begin to proliferate uncontrollably, they usually don’t do too much damage—the result is often those knots in trees called galls or burls which you can see on oaks or birches.
I would like to tell you about burls today. Burls form on coniferous and foliage trees and they are found quite rarely in nature. The nature of it’s formation is still not known very well. Sometimes they could become over 1 t mass, but usually they are not bigger than 30 cm across the diameter.
All literature dedicated to this subject is quite poor and gives contradictory information facts. Nature created inimitable in it’s beauty and diversity the formation of the tree tumours, which are called – burls.
From the earliest times burls’ wood is worth it’s weight in gold on global market because of the rarity, rich, various and mild texture. Also it’s quite complicated and fickle in a treatment. Usual processings are quite useless with woodworking of burls, that’s why it requires highly skilled hand-crafting.