Wood IDs #3: Another found ornamental tree, with a mystery hole

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 03-17-2009 12:51 AM 3597 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: A look inside the second mystery branch Part 3 of Wood IDs series Part 4: mystery ornamental branch identified »

More trash pick… I mean, recycling this past Thursday night. Someone in the neighborhood threw out what in the dark after work seemed like it might be plastic, but back in my garage turned out to be something with the texture, and a bit of the overall look of a plum, with smooth brown skin that seemed to have a purplish cast to it.

I think it’s either a whole small tree, or the top of a very tall larger tree, as it doesn’t seem to branch in the way a branch would. It’s too radially uniform around the center line. It was a piece roughly cut at the base, and about 7’-8’ tall.

found branch or tree top

closeup on branch or tree

closeup on branch or tree with hand for scale

mystery branch or tree skin texture

The tip and every little twig terminated in a little fuzzy bud, reminiscent [mildly] of a pussy willow, and there were less mature buds and leaf scars regularly spaced along each twig:

terminal bud on mystery branch tip

buds on mystery branch

I noticed in the dirty, rough-cut at the base a hole with a membranous covering, like hard, milky-white, translucent plastic. When I cut the limb into pieces for use in my mini lathe, or side projects (got a few ideas), I found the hole ran through the entire thing, even the thin branches:

hole in base of mystery limb

hole in base of mystery limb

cut up pieces of mystery limb

cut up pieces of mystery limb

small pieces of mystery limb twig end

I had cut off the end to clean it up, and found that the hole through the middle with its membrane caps let some light through. It was translucent. I tried to learn a bit more by peeling off the bark, and cutting through the cylindrical hole running up the middle. What I found were chambers running through the entire thing, like very short bamboo segments:

cross section of mystery limb

peeled bark from short segment of mystery limb

short segment of mystery limb with peeled bark

cut through cross section of mystery limb segment

cross section of cross section of mystery limb, revealing segmented core

segments revealed inside short segment of mystery limb

hole through center of mystery limb seen in cross sections

Some cuts revealed some branch lines radiating from the center out. Note that these limbs are really wet inside:

mystery limb cross section with radial branch lines

I got 16 little twigs of varying widths and lengths. I’d like to make a little natural birdcage out of them, and at around 2” spacing, I can do about a 10” diameter cage, and I have some ideas I think will be pretty cool for how to fasten them together into a ring, and how to create the door. The top remains TBD :)

twigs from mystery branch

twigs from mystery branch, showing central holes

And of course, my immediate question was: “Can I turn any of this on the lathe?” Obviously, the central hole made for a great on-centers setup, if it also meant I couldn’t turn too thin. I got a chance with this to try out my new Sorby Spindlemaster, on sale recently at Rockler for 20% off. I only buy those pricey things on sale.

mystery limb segment on-centers in Sherline mini lathe

It smelled just like carving a pumpkin, and turned very easily. It’s pretty firm, though wet. The colors were amazing. It has a [I think it’s the right term] cambium layer that’s fluorescent green, like antifreeze, some mustard-colored areas under each branch root, and pale, maple-colored interior, with an ultra-straight grain. I was half expecting it to shred like a weed, but it held up beautifully under the turning tool. I was impressed:

some of bark turned away from mystery branch segment on mini lathe

some of bark turned away from mystery branch segment on mini lathe

some of bark turned away from mystery branch segment on mini lathe

I made a nice little mess of wet shavings, and got some unfortunately blurry pics of the debarked piece. My auto-focus was aiming for the lathe table (machining mill part), I guess:

wet shavings mess around mini lathe

darker branch spot on debarked mystery branch segment

debarked segment of mystery branch on mini lathe

It almost seems like it would work for some pen turning, except it definitely wouldn’t be a high quality hardwood pen :)

pen-sized segment of mystery branch, debarked on mini lathe

pen-sized segment of mystery branch, debarked on mini lathe

Parting shot of the mess:

mess of wet shavings around mini lathe

Anyone have any idea what tree this is from? A couple more shots and descriptions in the Flickr set.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

6 comments so far

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4234 days

#1 posted 03-18-2009 06:26 AM

Interesting. Apparently no tree, sapling or scion is safe from you. }:)~

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3893 days

#2 posted 03-19-2009 09:47 AM

I’ll track them all down one day!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4672 days

#3 posted 03-23-2009 07:31 PM

well who would have thought that such beautiful possibilities were hiding in that piece of wood!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Treeclimber's profile


9 posts in 3894 days

#4 posted 03-23-2009 07:50 PM

with those buds and having a chambered pith so it most likely walnut….thats my guess anyway

-- Allan

View Matthew Allard's profile

Matthew Allard

28 posts in 3873 days

#5 posted 03-24-2009 01:19 PM

To me this looks like a “tree of heaven” It grows as a weed here in IL, and stinks when the bark is stripped.

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3893 days

#6 posted 03-24-2009 01:38 PM

Treeclimber – I came to the same conclusion! Don’t miss the follow-up post here.

neetodude – I’m 100% sure it’s a walnut, but only about 90% certain it’s a black walnut. Check out the link above for my follow-up post with reasons as to why I think this.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

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