A History of Myrtle Burl

"And instead of the briar shall come up a myrtle tree." - Isaiah 55:13

Early explorers of the Southern Oregon Coast were amazed to see large, tropical looking evergreen trees spotted on the wooded hillsides. These trees looked just like some small trees growing in the Holy Lands, so they were classified "Myrtle Trees". These explorers didn't realize that they had discovered one of the rarest woods in the world... growing along the Southern Oregon Coast and the Holy Lands.

Myrtle in History

In 1869 the golden spike, presently on display in the Stanford University Museum, was driven into the myrtlewood tie marking the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
The value of myrtlewood reached monetary proportions during the depression years when the city of North Bend, Oregon, issued myrtlewood script after the only bank in town failed. The coins ranged from $0.50 to $10. For years, the Chase Manhattan Bank of New York displayed a complete set of these coins, which punctuated a unique occasion in the United State's economic history.

Characteristics

Oregon myrtle trees are easy to recognize. They look like overgrown shrubs that have been freshly pruned. The foliage is usually very round and symmetrical, and appears to be as wide as it is tall. The leaves are about 3" long, oval in shape and dark green. The leaves are so thick and dense that you seldom see any branches above the lower trunk of the tree. A strong, aromatic camphor-like odor permeates the bark and leaves. In the fall and winter it is covered with small clusters of yellow blossoms. The olive-like fruit is an unpalatable nut, very delicate and difficult to propagate.

A Rare Gift

Myrtlewood is very hard and finely textured. Although an evergreen, it is harder than black walnut, oak or hardrock maple. It is full of colorful swirls and designs; looking at a finished surface is similar to looking at the clouds and finding imaginative forms and shapes.


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