Port McNeill is a small town in the North Island region of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. Located on the island's north-east shore on Queen Charlotte Strait, it was originally a base camp for loggers, which became a settlement in 1936. Logging is still the primary business here, and its produce contributes approximately 8% of the total timber harvest in British Columbia. Port McNeill’s other claim to fame is that it’s home to the world’s largest burls.
A burl (or burr) is a large knot or wart-like outgrowth on the trunk of a tree, that happens when the tree undergoes some form of stress caused by an injury, virus or fungus. Like cancer, the tree cells multiply uncontrollably resulting in abnormal bumps on the trunk. In some tree species such as redwoods, burls can grow to great size, which isn’t surprising given that redwoods are one of the largest and tallest trees on the planet. Burls in redwoods can encircle the entire trunk, and in the presence of moisture the burl itself can give birth to new redwood trees.
The world’s largest burl discovered in 2005. Photo credit
The world’s largest burl, however, wasn’t formed on a redwood but on a Sitka Spruce tree near Holberg on northern Vancouver Island. Discovered in 2005, the burl is 6 meters tall, 6 meters in diameter and weighs an estimated 30 tons. Had the burl been discovered somewhere else, it would probably have been left on the tree and become a natural attraction. But Port McNeill being a logger’s town, the burl was promptly chopped off and proudly displayed in a waterfront park at Broughton Boulevard.
The world’s second largest burl (formerly the largest burl) is also located in Port McNeill. It was cut from the base of a 351-year-old Sitka Spruce tree in 1976, about 40 kilometers southwest from where it is currently displayed. This burl weighs an estimated 22 tons and measures 13.7 meters in circumference. At the time of its discovery, it was the largest burl. It was displaced from its position in 2005 by the Holberg discovery, but the signpost near the burl hasn’t been updated yet and still says “the world’s largest burl”.
The burl was covered by a layer of fiberglass mold in 1997 to prevent decay by attack from pathogens, fungi and insects.
The world’s second largest burl discovered in 1976. Photo credit
Travelogue Of An Armchair Traveller
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