Is This a Burned Tree with Spaghetti-Patterned Wood Inside?

This picture has been shared with humorous captions, such as Spaghetti Tree, Spaghetree, and Chef Boyartree.

  • Published 10 January 2020

Claim

A photograph shows an unusual, spaghetti-looking wood pattern beneath the bark of a burned tree.

Rating

Origin

A picture supposedly showing an unusual wood pattern beneath the bark of a burned tree is met with a wide range of reactions (and humorous comments) whenever it circulates on social media: 

We have been unable to definitively determine if this is a genuine photograph of a burned tree with such a pattern. What we can say is that while this picture may resemble a tree oozing with spaghetti, the photograph may well be real. 

One reason it draws skepticism is that it is reminiscent of a famous April Fool’s Day joke pulled by the BBC in 1957, when the respected news outlet put out a video report about an annual spaghetti harvest:

While the recent tree picture may be reminiscent of the famous “spaghetti tree hoax,” the picture did not originate with the BBC. 

As far as we can tell, this photograph was first posted to the internet on Oct. 12, 2019, when it was shared to the “Mildly Interesting” section of Reddit. At the time, the image was captioned: “The Wood In This Tree Looks Like Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce.” Reddit user “AwayState” didn’t provide much more information other than to say that the family dog often barks at this tree when he gets hungry:

Funny Side Note: Whenever my dog is hungry he runs outside and barks at this tree often biting it until I take him back in and feed him.

One theory is that this picture shows wood burl, a growth in a tree that causes deformed grain. We found several pictures of wood burl that look similar to the “spaghetti” patterned featured in the above-displayed picture.

Here’s a video featuring a walnut burl slab:

The user, Hunski Hardwoods, explained on its website:

A burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. It is usually found on the trunk, at the base of the tree, and sometimes underground in the form of a rounded outgrowth. It is caused by some kind of stress, such as injury, virus, fungus, insect infestation or mold growth. Burl wood is the wood that is harvested from that growth, and it holds hidden treasures of unusual design.

Burls result in a uniquely patterned wood, which is highly prized for its beauty. It is valued and sought after by artists, furniture makers and sculptors. Burl wood can be found in many tree species and is used in making furniture, different types of veneer, inlays, turning wood, gun stocks, music wood, and other household items.

We also reached out to Morton Arboretum in Chicago for an opinion on the above-displayed picture. They agreed it could show wood burl, but also offered another theory:

It is possible that this is a burl. However, I think it is more likely the apex of a branch union with the trunk. The tortuous wood grain pattern that transitions into straight wood grain is consistent with what we often observe at the top of unions. I have attached a few pictures I took a couple years ago that shows a similar pattern. It would be nice to have another picture further away so I could see for sure that this is a branch union.

In sum, we’re not entirely sure if the viral photograph is genuine. While it may be the work of photoshop, it may plausibly be a genuine photograph of unusually patterned wood beneath the bark of a tree.