Spiked Wood: dormant life leads to a beautiful ending

Lately this week, a lot of clients have been attracted to the "spikey" wood in our shop. What do you call it? And how does it happen? Well, today we get to uncover the mystery of the spikes.

In nature, imperfections often add value and appreciation to what would otherwise be a fairly ordinary specimen. This is the case with Epicormic Buds, or as us professional tree experts call 'em, "spikey wood".

Simply put, it's tree branches that never fully grew.


If any damage were to occur to the upper portion of the tree, these epicormic buds (or "branch buds", if you will) would continue growing and eventually become new branches (Meier). If the tree remains healthy, however, the buds become dormant. If the tree were to be pruned, logged or otherwise damaged, these dormant buds will begin growing.


Clearing existing foliage around a standing tree may also trigger dormant buds as they begin receiving more sunlight.


In fact, a burl (also called bur or burr), is just a cluster of epicormic buds! Typically they form at the base of the tree, but occasionally a tree will develop a burl along the trunk. There is an incredible lack of research as to to what causes these clusters of growth, but we do know that both make for remarkable distinctions in finished wood.

Further reading:

Meier, A., Saunders, M.R., & Michler, C.H. (2012). Epicormic buds in trees: a review of bud establishment, development and dormancy release. Tree physiology, 32 5, 565-84.

Purcell, Lindsey. (Feb 2017). “Tree Pruning: What Do Trees Think?” (Urban Forestry Specialist, Purdue University).

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