Wood IDs #5: Mystery fallen tree in LA - my biggest haul yet

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 03-23-2009 12:34 PM 4243 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: mystery ornamental branch identified Part 5 of Wood IDs series Part 6: Found Eucalyptus tree in LA - part 1 of 3 »

I was putting in the rafters on my shed roof today, when while taking a break I noticed a message on my machine from a friend. He had spotted a fallen tree, which didn’t make it through today’s heavy wind storms here in LA. I grabbed my Irwin carpenter saw – the best hand saw I’ve used so far for wet logs (I’ve tried 3 now) – and headed out in my inadequate hatchback. It’s getting traded in for a truck soon, hooray. This was the pile I found:

pile of cut-up tree that fell down in LA windstorm

wind-felled tree in LA

The man in the house behind it was out talking to someone walking past, so I headed over and asked if he thought anyone would mind me taking it. The city had conveniently cut it up, and would be back for it later, but usually those guys are glad to be relieved of the load by wood scavengers. He said to take it, and also take the live one next to it, only half-jokingly. I couldn’t – don’t want to kill trees, particularly, and can’t remove city trees without permits and such. I loaded the big stuff, then cut up the small stuff, and left with my car looking like this:

2000 Ford Focus hatchback full of logs

2000 Ford Focus hatchback full of logs

2000 Ford Focus hatchback full of logs

2000 Ford Focus hatchback full of logs

And back home:

2000 Ford Focus hatchback full of logs

I had to come back for the large stump, and had forgotten my favorite saw there, too, so I headed back, never found the saw, but found the neighbor next to the fallen tree dragging more of it out to the road. The remaining pile had nearly doubled when I got back. I don’t know where it was coming from. I didn’t see any debris in that guy’s lawn, but there were many smaller pieces cut up I could pull out of there, while also scouring around for my missing saw. I eventually managed to get the base of the tree into the car, with great effort. Here it is, with the rest of the haul from the second trip:

2000 Ford Focus hatchback full of logs

And here’s the final pile – both hauls – on my back patio, with me for scale:

largest haul yet of mystery tree logs and branches

me with large pile of logs and branches of mystery tree

What a load! Well, for me in the city of Los Angeles it is. You folks out in the woods are laughing, as I would be if I still lived with my parents deep in the woods. We used to have 100x this pile to split – a never-ending chore for me growing up. The cuts were extremely sappy – the goopiest sap I’ve ever seen. It was oozing out like a slime more than a sap.

This is officially the dirtiest I’ve been in LA, and it’s all dirt-impregnated sap, which took a lot of rubbing with Goop-Off to remove:

extremely sap-covered, dirty hands

Now the big question… Anyone know what it is? Here are some leaves and flowers to help you out:

leaves and flowers of mystery tree

leaves and flowers of mystery tree

leaves and flowers of mystery tree

I came up with a simple idea and location for some wood racks that will keep off direct rain, but leave all of the logs and things I’m finding these days out in the open air (and out of the sun) to air dry.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

14 comments so far

View PG_Zac's profile


368 posts in 3902 days

#1 posted 03-23-2009 02:24 PM

I’ve no idea about the wood type Gary, but good haul. That chuck of trunk base looks heavy, but only to those who have manhandled green logs. The uninitiated would probably think it is relatively light.

Personally, I don’t go for anything thinner than my bicep, but whatever tilts yer kilt is what you must go for.

-- I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4760 days

#2 posted 03-23-2009 03:03 PM

You may want to swipe some paint on the ends of the logs to keep them from splitting and cracking. Or order some anchorseal online. It’s a waxy emulsion that you can spread on the ends that does the same as the paint, just more expensive. It really does’nt matter what kind of paint you use. Just the ends need it. Never mind I read your next blog and see that you already know about anchorseal.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4335 days

#3 posted 03-23-2009 03:04 PM

I love the photos!!! I am sure that you got a few stares when you were driving back with the load of wood but that is at times what being a LJ is all about. I can see a lot of potential in your wood stash.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4051 posts in 4577 days

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

The leaves and the 5 petaled flowers make me think Peach. But I’m no arborist…

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View wdkits1's profile


215 posts in 3867 days

#5 posted 03-23-2009 03:14 PM

Hi Gary
Nice haul you made. Looking at the pics of the leaves and comparing them with pics in a tree book I think what you have is a California Laurel.

-- Mike --

View Dusty56's profile


11852 posts in 4201 days

#6 posted 03-23-2009 11:52 PM

I’m sure that one of the pros on our sister site , Garden Tenders , can help you identify this item .
You’re already a member , so all you have to do is sign in and post your question or supply them the link to this page : )
Nice haul …my pick up truck rotted away , so now I’m using my Honda hatchback instead to get the job done : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4099 days

#7 posted 03-23-2009 11:58 PM

you took a chance driving with your car loaded like that.I know I’ve done it too LOL what are you going to do with the very small stuff?Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View clieb91's profile


3664 posts in 4448 days

#8 posted 03-24-2009 03:23 AM

Nice Haul Gary. Mike might be right based on this entry…

Do the leaves smell likethe bay leaves in your spice cabinet? Should provide you some good project wood.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18673 posts in 4189 days

#9 posted 03-24-2009 10:00 AM

Nice haul. I see why you need a truck! Does that Irwin saw work better than a bow saw? or have you tried one? I’ll join the crowd on the end thing. Checking starts immediately.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dusty56's profile


11852 posts in 4201 days

#10 posted 03-24-2009 03:34 PM

Any luck finding your saw ?

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Karson's profile


35202 posts in 4914 days

#11 posted 03-24-2009 04:41 PM

Looks like a great haul. Good luck on finding out what it is. Ask the guy where you got the wood he might know.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected] †

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3895 days

#12 posted 03-25-2009 10:53 AM

Thanks for all the replies, everyone. To answer a few questions:

Zac – no pen blanks for you, or do you have really skinny biceps? ;)

Mike (jockmike2) – yeah, I got some Rockler Green Wood End Sealer a day or two later and went at most of the pieces. I still have plenty to seal up, though. Thanks for the suggestion! I’m quickly running out of the 2 quarts my local store had, so tonight I ordered a 2-gallon bucket of Anchorseal from the source. I’ll be happy to be able to compare the two sealers at last, though it’ll take awhile, with trials across similar pieces of various species to really know how well they’re working, and of course YMMV what with local humidity, barometric pressure, temps, winds, and all that.

Scott – I’m used to stares. I seem to usually be doing some odd thing no one else would consider, or bother doing. I’m like some kind of alien or something :)

Doug and Mike – I think Mike may win this one with the call on the California Bay Laurel. Still have a lot of my usual over-research to be on about, but it looked quite promising in my first glimpses of Google Images. Thanks, guys!

Dusty – We’re in the same boat with our hatchbacks, but I’m going the other way and trading it in (probably for $5 :) for a pickup ASAP. Since this tree I’ve picked up a found night stand out by someone’s trash bins, a large branch that when cut up at convenient locations, filled up a lot of the cargo area (nothing like this, though). Then there was tonight: 8 2×4s, 4 pressure treated 4×4s, and 5 2’x4’ “handi-panel” plywood sheets, 23/32” each. It was fun turning corners and having all the 2×4s roll over onto my right shoulder. Oh, and thanks for the tip on Garden Tenders. I seriously need to enlist their help. What a great resource I’ve been overlooking!

Alistair – this car has done really well for how poorly I’ve cared for it and treated it over the last 9 years. It only has 50k miles on it (as of yesterday on the way to Home Depot!), but it’s always been out in the weather, almost never serviced, I’ve driven the brakes to the point of needing new rotors installed (maybe 2x now – need to get that checked out again), and had a dead battery once caused by a 3” tall mountain of bright blue corrosion. I’m hoping to get a decent, new truck, probably with one of those sprayed-on armor liners, and then I’m actually going to take care of it. Maybe I’ll have it for 10-15 years, as my dad had his tiny blue Toyota pickup (always ran/looked the same), and end up saving a lot of money, while getting a lot out of it. I seem to be jamming some oversized thing into this hatchback daily anymore. It’s amazing what’s fit in there, though. Check this out: a large treadmill, in the box, a 6-inch Delta jointer, and 24 2x4s (25 is impossible :), It’s made too many hauls like this over the years, and both of its long trips – cross country (FL->NJ and NJ->CA) – were made with the car completely packed with my belongings. It’s almost like a short station wagon.

Chris L. – great link! I think you and another guy in here nailed it. More research, and a follow-up post (thanking you guys) to follow, of course. Thanks for your help!

Topamax – I am pretty sure it works better than a bowsaw. It’s been decades since I tried one out, but a coworker and I were talking about it, and he told me about some problems he’s had with them, and I have to say I didn’t have any of the problems. I’m kind of tempted to pick up a high-tension bow saw I saw at hom depot near the Irwin. It had a wood-cutting blade with pretty aggressive looking teeth running in both directions. One area where the Irwin has it beat, though, is resawing. I’m quite curious to try that out on some smaller logs, and even on some big ones with the 24” version of this thing, which I’m about to go order online tonight. I took a bunch of pics of the saws I’ve picked up recently, and even some cutting videos – full cuts through the same sized logs using the same techniques and pressures to try to show how long each takes, and what goes on with the shavings, how they sound, if they bind, and will probably do that with all of my saws, and put together a comparative video as a review, with my notes peppered in for good measure. Oh, and the bow saw’s bow gets in its way in larger stock. I feel pretty certain I could get through 12”-14” logs with this thing. I imagine with a bow saw I’d have to roll the log, or work my way around its perimeter to reach every part. And yes – checking sure does start fast. All of my logs got some mild splits in the ends. I’m doing what I can to end grain seal them ASAP – so many, though! So little time.

Dusty – the saw is nowhere to be found, but it’s only $14. I got 2 more at Home Depot, and just said goodbye to the other. I hope someone found it who appreciates it. I’m keeping one in the garage now, and one in my car, and that came in handy today, when my officemate alerted me to a large limb he saw on his drive to work. I went and cut it up and hauled it all away :)

Karson – thanks! I think 2 guys in the comments here might have nailed it with their guess of California bay laurel.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4388 days

#13 posted 03-26-2009 03:49 AM

You and me have the same truck! (But mine is yellow.)

-- Happy woodworking!

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4236 days

#14 posted 04-20-2009 05:07 PM

Did you wash up afterwards? Nice haul. You would have gone “Bonkers” here this weekend, as the neighbors had a HUGE (80 ft?) Oak tree cut down. It took them 2 days to cut and haul it all away.

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

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