The wood used for pipes comes from the burl. The rocky hill sides where the heath grows will not allow a large tap root to form and grow straight down, yet high winds blowing around the hills would blow over any tree-size plant with a root system that simply spread out from the base of the trunk. The heath survives because it forms a sizable ball, or burl, between the roots and the trunk. This ball-shaped mass sends out a sprangle of roots into the ground, which anchor it and feed water and nutrients to it, and it supports and holds the trunk which rises above it.
Due to arid conditons and infertility of the soil, it usually take 30 years or more for a burl of 5 or 10 pounds to form -- large enough to make perhaps a half-dozen pipes. Anything smaller than this is hardly worth digging up, and larger burls are of course more highly valued. My understanding is that current production for quality pipes is mainly from burls of age 60 or more. There was a time (pre-WW II) when this figure was 120 to 150, and burls 350 years old and more were not unknown, but most of these old stocks have long been exhausted. ... to be continued
Prossimo articolo: History of Briar - part III