Bandits have been targeting the 2,000-year-old trees in Redwood National and State Parks for their burls. Found at the bases of trees, the bulbous growths are sold for thousands of dollars and are used to make knife handles, souvenirs, coffee tables, and other items. Redwood burls’ attractive, intricate patterns have made them popular in a burgeoning black market.
Cutting the knotty lumps damages the bark, which protects trees from fire and insect infestations.
“When you take away the burl and leave an open scar, it’s similar to me having a major cut on my leg and I left it exposed,” Redwood National Park’s Candace Tinkler told CNN.
If a redwood falls, the burl may also sprout from the trunk and develop into a clone of the original tree. This ability has allowed the redwood forest, which has thrived along the North Coast for 20 million years, to endure.
Shops throughout the North Coast can legally sell burl harvested from trees in privately owned forests, but it’s illegal to obtain wood from Redwood National and State Parks. Officials have shut down an eight-mile drive through the forest at night to thwart poachers who work in the dark.