Oregon Myrtle Bowl

Geographic Distribution:

Oregon Myrtle is also known by several other common names including: Myrtle, California Bay Laurel, and Pepperwood.  Oregon Myrtle is known to botanists as Umbellularia californica, the only species within the Umbellularia genus as opposed to a true Myrtle of the Myrtus genus.

U. californica occurs in the Klamath, Siskiyou, and Coast Ranges from Douglas County, Oregon south to San Diego County, California, and on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada from Shasta County south to Kern County. It is found along drainages in the Central Valley, California. Umbellularia californica var. fresnensis occurs in Fresno County, California.

Distribution of Oregon Myrtle

For the sake of simplicity and common understanding I will hereafter refer to Umbellularia californica as Oregon Myrtle.

General Characteristics:

The color of the heartwood of Oregon Myrtle tends to be variable ranging from a light orangish brown to gray or olive, sometimes with darker streaks present. The sapwood is pale is in general is well defined.

Oregon Myrtle not infrequently features figured grain patters, including curly, mottled, and burl.

The grain of the Oregon Myrtle is highly variable and can be straight, wavy, or otherwise irregular.

Oregon Myrtle has a uniform texture with a low natural luster.

Oregon Myrtle is highly susceptible to fungal rot including heart rot which is common.  Various decay causing fungi are known to inhabit even living trees.

Oregon Myrtle is also non-resistant to insect attack.

Working Characteristics:

Oregon Myrtle is considered fairly easy to work with but in pieces with figured grain tearout, especially when planing or joining, can occur.  Because it is hard and pale, Oregon Myrtle also has a tendency to burn during drilling and routing, so adjusting speeds and ensuring very cutters are wise maneuvers.

Oregon Myrtle is reported to have a strong and spicy odor when being worked.

Pricing and Availability:

Oregon Myrtle is an expensive wood that is not harvested commercially being rather the domain of small hobby mills and vendors in general.  Per board-foot prices are among the highest for domestic hardwoods. Figured pieces and burls are very expensive.

In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NCWood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.  Note: ALWAYS green turn wet blanks from NCWood as their wax will not hold for extended drying periods.

At this time none of these vendors are selling Oregon Myrtle.  Most of the above vendors are based in the eastern United States and as Oregon Myrtle is strictly a west coast wood your best chance for success in buying Oregon Myrtle is through specialized or hobby dealers located in the west.

A simple internet search reveals multiple sources of Oregon Myrtle but I don’t have any existing experience of any of them except for Craft Supplies USA which sells a range of sizes under their Turners Choice label ranging in price from $1.35 to $27.95.  Larger size bowl blanks are currently listed as out of stock until late May 2020.

Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers.  In your search for Oregon Myrtle, this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings.  I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.