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Vandals Attack Tree in Watertown Looking to Poach Lucrative Burls

Someone sawed off growths from a tree in Arsenal Park. The burls can be made into bowls that sell for hundreds of dollars.

Someone hacked off pieces of a tree in Watertown's Arsenal Park last week and removed large growths - called burls - that can be sold for hundreds of dollars, said Watertown Tree Warden Chris Hayward.

The Watertown Police is investigating the incident, said Watertown Police Lt. Michael Lawn. The WPD had received information from Brookline Police about cases of tree vandals.

Hayward noticed something strange when he was in the park on Sept. 21 when he noticed large branches lying next to a silver maple on the island in the entryway of Arsenal Park. 

"It happened after the wind storm, but I said, that's funny, the DPW usually hauls away branches when they cut them down," Hayward said.

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The vandals climbed about 20 feet into the tree sawed off three burls from the side of the tree and also removed two branches.

Hayward described the act as "poaching" because the growths can be sold and turned into wooden bowls, Hayward said. 

"They lathe them out and turn them into bowls that can sell for $500 and $1,000," Hayward said. "You see them on eBay."

The cutting left a number of exposed area on the tree, but Hayward said the tree will survive. Another tree suffering a similar attack in Brookline was not so lucky, he said.

"They did it in Brookline and it killed a 200-year-old elm," Hayward said.

Hayward has also heard of a few cases of burls being removed from trees in Boston, and this was the first one in Watertown. 

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