Descriptions Of Major Wood Groups, Genera, Generic Groups & Species

 

Hardwoods

The term hardwood is a general term for flowering trees (Angiosperms) that usually have broad leaves that are shed (deciduous) and produce fruits. The term originated as a description of the hardness of the wood, although there are some soft hardwoods like Balsa (Ochroma spp.).

 

 

                Ash (Fraxinus spp./Oleaceae) is composed of 40 to 70 species, with 21 in Central and North America and 50 species in Eurasia. All species look alike microscopically. The commercial ashes are, to my knowledge:

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Black Ash

F. nigra                    

Common Ash

F. excelsior

Blue Ash

F. quadrangulata            

Flowering Ash

F. ornus

Green Ash

F. pennsylvanica             

Narrow-Leaved Ash

F. angustifolia

Pumpkin Ash

F. profunda

 

 

White Ash

F. americana                 

 

 

 

                Basswood (Tilia spp./Tiliaceae), also known as Lime in England and Europe, consists of 30 to 35 species native to Eurasia(30) and North America(4). All species look alike microscopically.  American Basswood (Tilia americana) currently grows in the northeast US from Minnesota to Maine and from the Virginia Appalachians to southwest Missouri. The European Linden (Tilia europaea) is native to Russia, Austria, Germany, France, the Netherlands and England. A favorite wood for carvings, such as those by Grinling Gibbons. Basswood is also used as a secondary wood in furniture, as a ground for inlay and japanning work. It is currently used for veneer, plywood, trunk panels ,valise panels, core stock, slack cooperage, excelsior, boxes and crates, woodenware, novelties, shade and map rollers and piano keys.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Basswood

T. americana

Broad-Leaved Lime

T. platyphyllos

Carolina Basswood

T. caroliniana

European Lime

T. vulgaris

 

 

Silver Lime

T. tomentosa

 

 

Samll-Leaved Lime

T. cordata

 

                Beech (Fagus spp./Fagaceae) contains 8 species that grow in Asia (4), Europe (F. sylvatica) and North America (F. grandifolia). All species look alike microscopically.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Beech

F. grandifolia

Beech

F. sylvatica

 

                Birch (Betula spp./Betulaceae) is composed of 30 to 50 species growing in Asia (12), North America (4) and Europe (4). All species look alike microscopically.  The common commercial species are to my knowledge:

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Gray Birch

B. populifolia

Hairy Birch

B. pubescens

Paper Birch

B. papyrifera

Silver Birch

B. pendula

River Birch

B. nigra

 

 

Sweet Birch

B. lenta

 

 

Yellow Birch

B. alleghaniensis

 

 

 

                Burls, also known as burrs, are abnormal bulges produced by nearly all kinds of trees. The grain, or orientation of cells, is extremely irregular, making microscopic identification difficult. The figure produced in burls is often beautiful, and they have traditionally been made into bowls or turned objects. Hinckley1 mentions ash burl several times used as veneer.

     1Hinckley, F.L. 1960. Directory of historic cabinet woods. Bonanza Books, New York.

 

                Cedrela (Cedrela spp./Meliaceae). The Genus Cedrela contains about 8 species native to tropical America (Mexico to Argentina). The main commercial species is C. odorata, known as Spanish cedar or cedro. There is a closely related species from the Old World (Asia) now known as toon or Australian red cedar (Toona spp.), formerly known as Cedrela toona. All species of Cedrela look alike microscopically. Cedrela wood appears occasionally in colonial furniture but is the premier wood for carved Santos from Central and South America.

 

                Cherry (Prunus spp./Rosaceae).  The genus Prunus contains between 200-400 species distributed in most parts of the world, especially the northern temperate regions (North America, Asia and Europe/Mediterranean).  This genus includes cherries, plums, peaches, almonds and apricots. All species look alike microscopically, however, woods in this genus with a reddish cast (light or dark red) with a light ray fleck are assumed to be cherry. The three main commercial species are, to my knowledge:

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Black Cherry

P. serotina

Bird Cherry

P. padus

 

 

Wild Cherry

P. avium

 

                Chestnut (Castanea spp./Fagaceae) contains 7 to 12 species distributed in North America (4) and Europe (1). Chestnut (Castanea sativa) was introduced into England by the Romans probably as food for domestic animals. North American trees were virtually wiped out by the fungus Endothia parasitica. Species hybridize with each other. All species look alike microscopically.

                Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Chestnut

C. dentata

Sweet Chestnut

C. sativa

 

                Elm (Ulmus spp./Ulmaceae) contains 18 to 45 species native to Asia(11), Europe and Mediterranean region(6), South & Central America(7) and North America(7). There are species on both sides of the Atlantic that look alike microscopically.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Elm

U. americana

English Elm

U. procera

Rock Elm

U. thomasii

Fluttering Elm

U. laevis

Slippery Elm

U. rubra

Smoothed-Leaved Elm

U. minor

Winged Elm

U. alata

Wych Elm

U. glabra

 

                Fruitwoods are composed of Apple (Malus spp.) & Pear (Pyrus spp.).

                Apple (Malus spp./Rosaceae) consists of at least 30 species that occur on both sides of the Atlantic. Can be confused with the other fruitwood Pear, also in the Rose Family (Rosaceae). The common apple was introduced into North America by the colonial English and had quickly escaped cultivation, spreading across southern Canada and the continental United States.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Southern Crab Apple

M. angustifolia

Common Apple

M. sylvestris

Sweet Crab Apple

M. coronaria

   Old Name

(Pyrus malus)

                Pear (Pyrus spp./Rosaceae) consists of at least 20 species native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean. Like the apple, the Common Pear was introduced into North America by the colonial English and had quickly escaped cultivation, spreading across southern Canada and the continental United States.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

 

 

Almond-Leaved Pear

P. amygdaliformis

 

 

Common Pear

P. communis

 

 

Wild Pear

P. pyraster

 

 

????

P. nivalis

 

 

????

P. eleagrifolia

 

                Red Gum or Sweet Gum (Liquidambar/Hammelidaceae) contains 3 to 4 species that grow in North America (1) and Central America, southwest Asia, eastern China and Taiwan. All species look alike microscopically.

 

                Hackberry (Celtis spp./Ulmaceae) contains about 60 species, mostly tropical, but at least 4 temperate species, with the wood being used for charcoal, fence posts and fuel and the bark for a yellow dye. The European species (C. australis) is widely planted in the Mediterranean region for its timber. The fruits of this species were the lotus referred to in Homer’s Odyssey.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Georgia Hackberry

C. tenuifolia

Nettle Tree

C. australis

Hackberry

C. occidentalis

 

 

Sugarberry

C. laevigata

 

 

 

                Hazel (Corylus spp./Corylaceae) is comprised of about 10 northern temperate species, with 3 in Eurasia. The fruits are known as Hazels or Filberts.

Eastern North America

Eurasia

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Hazel

C. americana

Hazel

C. avellana

 

 

Turkish Hazel

C. colurna

 

 

Filbert

C. maxima

 

                Hickory (Carya spp./Juglandaceae) is composed of at least 16 species native to Asia (4), Central America (4) and North America (11).  The European species became extinct during the Ice Age. This genus can be split into the True Hickory Group and the Pecan Group based on microanatomy. See Taras, M.A. and B.F. Kukachka. 1970. Forest Products Journal 20(4): 58-59.

 

                Holly (Ilex spp./Aquifoliaceae) is composed of about 400 species with a cosmopolitan distribution, especially the temperate and tropical regions of Asia and the Americas. All species look alike microscopically.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Holly

I. opaca

Holly

I. aquifolium

Carolina Holly

I. ambigua

 

 

Common Winterberry

I. verticillata

 

 

Sarvis Holly

I. amelanchier

 

 

 

                Hornbeam (Carpinus spp. & Ostrya spp./Betulaceae) contains about 45 northern temperate species. Also known as Ironwood.  

 Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Hornbeam

C. caroliniana

Hornbeam

Carpinus. betulus

Eastern Hophornbeam

O. virginiana

Hop-Hornbeam

Ostrya carpinifolia

 

                Horse Chestnut (Aesculus spp./Hippocastanaceae) contains about 13 species, which grow in the United States [6], Mexico [1] and Eurasia [6]. Species cannot be separated based on microanatomy. The name aesculus is a Latin name of a European oak or other mast-bearing tree.

 

                Laburnum (Laburnum spp./Leguminosae) is comprised of about 31 species, 3 of which are native to south central and south eastern Europe. The dark, hard wood is used as an ebony substitute in inlays and musical instruments.

 

                Lacewood (family Proteaceae) consists of about 75 genera and 1350 species of evergreen shrubs and trees, most of which are native to Australia and South Africa. The main timber genera include Banksia Grevillea, Knightia, Orites & Panopsis.

 

                Locust, Black (Robinia spp./Leguminosae) is composed of about 10 species native to eastern North America and Mexico. The genus Robinia is dedicated to Jean Robin (1550-1629) and his son Vespasian Robin (1579-1662), herbalists to kings of France and first to cultivate locust in Europe.

 

                Magnolia (Magnolia spp./Magnoliaceae) consists of 30 to 80 species from Asia (50), West Indies (8), Central/South America (10) and North America (8). Species separations are possible for the following based on microscopic characters from D. Christensen at Forest Products Lab:

Eastern North America

Europe

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

M. grandiflora

Southern Magnolia

M. soulangeana

Grossblumigen Magnolie

M. virginiana

Sweetbay

 

 

M. tripetala

Umbrella Magnolia

 

 

M. fraseri

Fraser Magnolia

 

 

 

                Mahogany, African (Khaya spp./Meliaceae) is composed of about 7 species of tropical origin in Africa and Madagascar. It is commonly used as a substitute for True Mahogany (Swietenia spp.) in European/English furniture.

 

                Mahogany, True (Swietenia spp./Meliaceae) is named after von Swieten, a Dutch physician and Baron. The genus Swietenia contains 2 to 5 species native to southern Florida, Central and South America. Jacquin described the genus in 1760. During the late 17th Century and early 18th Century it appears in records as mohogony, mohogany, muhagnee, mehogeny, mehogenny, mahogoni, mahoginy, and finally (by 1724) as mahogany. In France it is called Acajou.

                The use of True Mahogany dates to the 16th Century, when it was thought to be a type of "cedar". Cortez  used it in construction of ships, while Sir Walter Raleigh used it to repair his vessels. Philip II of Spain, in 1563, used it in construction of doors, windows, bookshelves and desks in the Escorial Palace, and it was used in England in Nottingham Castle in 1680 for wainscoting and flooring, as was the Trinity College Chapel in 1692. By 1724 it appeared in inventories of the Duchess of Buckingham (a bureau) and George I (2 desert tables, 2 clothes chests and 1 dinner table). The Prime Minister (Houghton Hall, 1740) used mahogany for paneling, staircases, doors and window frames.  Mahogany wood from Jamaica was first advertised in the London Gazette in 1702. It was commonly used in furniture in England from 1715 onwards, mostly as tables. The tables were gate-legged, with either straight legs with clubfeet or plain cabriole legs. Tables were made with large tops because of the huge logs of Mahogany used.

                The first Mahogany imported into England was from Jamaica, followed by wood from Cuba (early 18th C.). By the late 18th C., wood came from Honduras, where trees that grew near the coast could be harvested cheaply. The wood was also imported to London in the early 18th C. from Carolina, Jamaica, New Providence, New York, Virginia and Maryland. In the 17th & 18th C's Honduran Mahogany made its way to England via Jamaica. It was called Jamaican Mahogany to avoid the 1725 duty of 8 Pounds per ton. At this time a black market of "Mahogany Runners" was established. By 1774 the "Jamaican" Mahogany imported to the colonies was 10,000 feet, compared to 500,000 feet imported to England.

                Trees were cut 4-5 feet above the ground, leaving the "stump wood" for harvest later, when supplies were scarce and the wood expensive. This lower wood was of beautiful figure (quilted, tortoise-shell or plum pudding) with black spots through it (probably small roots). This wood is most dense and is quite lustrous. [Constantine, 1975; Latham, 1957]

                All species look alike microscopically. The two commercial species are S. macrophylla or Honduran Mahogany and S. mahogani or Cuban/West Indies Mahogany.

                These two species can sometimes be separated by specific gravity. The specific gravity for S. macrophylla is from 0.35 to 0.65 grams per cubic centimeter, while for S. mahogani is from 0.35 to 0.85. [Record & Hess, 1943] This means that if the sample has a specific gravity above 0.65 g/cc that it is most likely Cuban/West Indies Mahogany.  Also, If a sample is very dark red-brown or with a purplish tinge, is dense and has white deposits in the vessels (catechols) it is most likely “Cuban” Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani ).

 

                Maple (Acer spp./Aceraceae) contains 70 to 120 species with 16 species in Asia, 8 in North America and 6 in the Europe/Mediterranean region. The Maples can be separated into two groups based on their microscopic anatomy (ray width), the Soft Maple Group and the Hard Maple Group. Species within each group look alike microscopically. The commercial species are to my knowledge:

                Hard Maple Group

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Black Maple

A. nigrum

Norway Maple

A. platanoides

Sugar Maple

A. saccharum

Sycamore*

A. pseudoplatanus

* Acer pseudoplatanus is known as "Sycamore" in England. Not to be confused with the American  "Sycamore", Platanus spp., known as Plane Tree in England.

                Soft Maple Group

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Red Maple

A. rubrum

Field Maple

A. campestre

Silver Maple

A. saccharinum

 

 

 

The wood of Hard Maple is hard and heavy and the color of the wood can range from white to reddish brown. It has a fine, uniform texture that turns well and is resistant to shock and abrasion. The grain can be straight, curly, wavy or bird's eye.  The wood of Soft Maples resembles Hard Maple except that it is not so hard and heavy or strong.

                Maple is used for lumber, distillation, veneer, cross ties, pulp, flooring, furniture, boxes, crates, shoe lasts, handles, woodenware, novelties, car parts, spools, bobbins, musical instruments, piano frames, bowling pins billiard cues, Indian clubs, dumbbells, butcher's blocks, churns, chopping bowls, breadboards, cant hook handles, croquet mallets, croquet balls, turnery, plywood.

                With respect to furniture: (C. Europe, Gothic), solid, veneer, bandings, inlays; Violin backs & sides; Cabinetry (17th/18thC England), Seating(NY, NJ, PA & some southern states); Curly & Knurlwood veneers(Ipswich MA); Bird's-eye(L18thC); Secondary Wood(Salem, Boston , etc..)

                Other European Maples include:

Common Name

Scientific Name

Balkan Maple

A. hyrcanum

Balkan Maple

A. granatense

Cretan Maple

A. sempervirens (orientale)

Greek Maple

A. heldreichii

Italian Maple

A. obtusatum

Italian Maple

A. opalus

Montpellier Maple

A. monspessulanum

Tatarian Maple

A. tataricum

 

                Mulberry (Morus spp./Moraceae) contains 10 species that grow in North America (2), Central and South America (4) and from Africa to Asia (5). All species look alike microscopically. The only native species that I know of are Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) and Texas Mulberry (Morus microphylla).

 

                Oak (Quercus spp./Fagaceae) contains 275 to 500 species and can be separated into three groups based on their microanatomy; the Live or Evergreen Oak Group, the Red Oak Group and the White Oak Group. Species within each group look alike microscopically. For each group there are species on both sides of the Atlantic.

                Species of the White Oak Group were used in American and English furniture. To my knowledge, species in the Red Oak Group were not commercial timbers in Europe and England during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Quercus cerris (Turkish Oak), a species in the Red Oak Group, was introduced into England in the late 1730's from the Mediterranean Region as an ornamental tree. Its appearance in furniture would be astronomically rare. Based on these assumptions, furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries containing wood of the Red Oak Group is most likely American in origin.

 

                Live Oak Group

Live Oak (Q. virginiana/Fagaceae) is native to the southeastern United States. It was commonly used as structural elements (“knees”) in the construction of colonial sailing ships. I is rarely found in colonial furniture.

 

                Oak (Quercus spp./Fagaceae) contains 275 to 500 species and can be separated into three groups based on their microanatomy; the Live or Evergreen Oak Group, the Red Oak Group and the White Oak Group. Species within each group look alike microscopically. For each group there are species on both sides of the Atlantic.

                Species of the White Oak Group were used in American and English furniture. To my knowledge, species in the Red Oak Group were not commercial timbers in Europe and England during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Quercus cerris (Turkish Oak), a species in the Red Oak Group, was introduced into England in the late 1730's from the Mediterranean Region as an ornamental tree. Its appearance in furniture would be astronomically rare. Based on these assumptions, furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries containing wood of the Red Oak Group is most likely American in origin.

                Red Oak Group (Erythrobalanus)

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Black Oak

Q. velutina

Turkey Oak

Q. cerris

Blackjack Oak

Q. marilandica

 

 

Laurel Oak

Q. laurifolia

 

 

Northern Red Oak

Q. rubra

 

 

Pin Oak

Q. palustris

 

 

Scarlet Oak

Q. coccinea

 

 

Shumard Oak

Q. shumardii

 

 

Southern Red Oak

Q. falcata

 

 

Water Oak

Q. nigra

 

 

Willow Oak

Q. phellos

 

 

                               

                Oak (Quercus spp./Fagaceae) contains 275 to 500 species and can be separated into three groups based on their microanatomy; the Live or Evergreen Oak Group, the Red Oak Group and the White Oak Group. Species within each group look alike microscopically. For each group there are species on both sides of the Atlantic.

                Species of the White Oak Group were used in American and English furniture. To my knowledge, species in the Red Oak Group were not commercial timbers in Europe and England during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Quercus cerris (Turkish Oak), a species in the Red Oak Group, was introduced into England in the late 1730's from the Mediterranean Region as an ornamental tree. Its appearance in furniture would be astronomically rare. Based on these assumptions, furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries containing wood of the Red Oak Group is most likely American in origin.

                White Oak Group (Leucobalanus)  

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Chestnut Oak

Q. prinus

Algerian Oak

Q. canariensis

Chinkapin Oak

Q. muehlenbergii

Cork Oak

Q. suber

Overcup Oak

Q. lyrata

Downy Oak

Q. pubescens

Post Oak

Q. stellata

Durmast Oak

Q. petrea

Swamp Chestnut Oak

Q. michauxii

Holm Oak

Q. ilex

Swamp White Oak

Q. bicolor

Hungarian Oak

Q. frainetta

White Oak

Q. alba

Pedunculate Oak

Q. robur

 

 

Portuguese Oak

Q. faginea

 

 

Pyrenean Oak

Q. pyrenaica

 

 

Round-Leaved Oak

Q. rotundifolia

 

 

White Oak

Q. polycarpa

 

                Poplar (Populus spp./Salicaceae) is in the Aspen/Cottonwood/Poplar Group. Populus sp. is a genus of 35 species that contains Poplar, Cottonwood and Aspen. Species in this group are native to Eurasia/north Africa (25), Central America (2) and North America (8). All species look alike microscopically.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Balsam Poplar

P. balsamifera

Aspen

P.  tremula

Bigtooth Aspen

P. grandidentata

Balsam Poplar

P. gileadensis

Eastern Cottonwood

P. deltoides

Black Poplar

P. nigra

Quaking Aspen

P. tremuloides

Gray Poplar

P. canescens

Swamp Cottonwood

P. heterophylla

White Poplar

P. alba

 

                Rosewoods (Dalbergia/Leguminosae -Papilionoideae) contains about 100 species native to the tropics.  Many of the species have beautifully colored heartwood used in furniture in solid or veneer form.  Given a large enough sample, some species separations are possible based on microanatomy. The more common species seen in furniture include:

Scientific Name

Common Name

Country of Origin

D. cearensis

Kingwood or Tulipwood

Brazil

D. cochinchinensis

Trac

SE Asia

D. decipularis

Sebastiao-de Arruda

Bahia

D. granadillo

Granadillo

Mexico

D. latifolia

Indian Rosewood

India

D. melanoxylon

African Blackwood

Africa

D. nigra

Brazilian Rosewood

Brazil

D. retusa

Cocobolo

Central America

D. sissoo

Sisso

India

D. stevensonii

Honduras Rosewood

Belize

               

                Sabicu or Horseflesh Mahogany (Lysiloma spp./Leguminosae) contains 10 to 30 species that grow in Tropical America from Florida to Bolivia. All species look alike microscopically, but the species that attains a large size is L. latisiliquum. Used in 18th century cabinetry. See collector's notes in May Antiques, 1989.

 

                Sassafras (Sassafras albidum/Lauraceae) is composed of three species native to North America [1], China [1] and Taiwan [1]. The name sassafras is a Native American name used by the Spanish and French in Florida in the middle of the 16th century. In 1577, the use of sassafras by Native Americans was reported and in 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh brought it back to England from the Virginia Colony. In the early 17th century (1602–1603), several ships were dispatched from England to the colonies to collect sassafras roots; the colonists used the wood to build forts. These forays were known as the Great Sassafras Hunts.

 

                Satinwood, West Indies (Zanthoxylum flavum/Rutaceae), also called yellowwood, is native to the West Indies (Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Bermuda & the Bahamas). During the 17th century, it was a major export of the West Indies, especially from Bermuda. In 1612, the Bermuda Company requested that first Governor ship a ton of this wood to London.  A black market in yellowwood shortly ensued. Twenty years later, the Governor of Bermuda banned its export and by the middle of the century the trees were almost completely exterminated.  It was commonly used in solid form or veneer in Federal period furniture and was popular after 1780 in England.  While it was used sparingly in England and Europe as accents ot a piece of furniture, it was used extensively as the main primary wood in pieces from Baltimore and New York  (Hinckley, F. Lewis, 1960, Directory of the Historic Cabinet Woods.)

 

                Sycamore (Platanus spp./Platanaceae) also known as Buttonwood or Plane is composed of 5 to 9 species that grow in Eurasia (2) and North America (8). All species look alike microscopically. The common name Sycamore is used in England to designate a species in the Hard Maple Group (Acer pseudoplatanus), whereas Plane or Planetree is used to name the genus Platanus which grows there.

 Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Sycamore

P. occidentalis

London Plane

P. hybrida

 

                Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron spp./Magnoliaceae) contains 2 species, the Tulip Poplar of North America (L. tulipifera) and a Chinese species (L. chinensis). Both species look alike microscopically.

 

                Tupelo (Nyssa spp./Nyssaceae), also called Tupelo Gum, Gumwood, Black Gum, Pepperidge, Sour Gum, White Gum or Swamp Gum is composed of 5 species from North America  (3) and Eastern Asia  (2). The North American species currently grow from eastern Texas north to lower Michigan and east to the Atlantic from central Florida to southern Maine. The wood is generally a pale yellowish color or white to tan, with a fine grain. Various figures, including ribbon-stripe, may be present when the wood is quarter-sawn. According to Hinckley, gumwood can appear in New England as well as southern furniture. The other gumwood is Sweet Gum or Blisted (Liquidambar styraciflua). [Hinckley, F.L.. 1960. Directory of historic cabinet woods. Bonanza Books, New York. 186 pp.]

 

                Walnut/Butternut Group (Juglans spp./Juglandaceae) contains 20 species that grow in South America (5), Eurasia (5) and North America (11). Tropical Walnuts, American Black Walnut and English/European/Persian Walnut and the Butternuts can separated from each other based on microanatomy.  (See Miller, R. 1976. Botanical Gazette 137(4): 368-377.)

Eastern North America

Europe/Middle East

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

American Black Walnut

Juglans nigra

Common Walnut

Juglans regia

Butternut

Juglans cinerea

 

 

 

                Willow (Salix spp./Salicaceae) is composed of 170 to 400 species native to Eurasia(60), South  America(1), Central America(19) and North America(87). All species look alike microscopically.

 

 

 

 

Softwoods

The term softwood is a general term for trees that produce cones (Gymnosperms), usually have narrow, needle-shaped leaves and are evergreen. The term originated as a description of the hardness of the wood, although there are some hard softwoods like Heart Pine (Yellow Pine Group, Pinus spp.).

 

                Araucariaceae (Agathis spp. and Araucaria spp.). This family contains two genera with 31 species and  is represented, commercially, by three species: Brazilian Araucaria or Parana Pine (Araucaria angustifolia), native to Brazil; Klinki Pine (Araucaria klinkii) of Borneo; and Almaciga or Sakar (Agathis philippinensis) of the Philippine Islands.

Botanically, the genus Agathis contains 13 species, native to an area from the Philippine Island to New Zealand.  The trees are noted for their exudates (resins) called copals.

Similarly, the genus Araucaria comprises 18 species, native to the southwest Pacific (especially New Caledonia), southern Brazil to Chile.  The genus includes Norfolk Island Pine, Monkey Puzzle Tree and Bunya-bunya Pine.

 

                Bald Cypress (Taxodium spp./Taxodiaceae) contains only two species, both of which are native to North America, Baldcypress or Pondcypress (T. distichum) and Montezuma Baldcypress (T.  mucronatum). Both Species look alike microscopically.

 

                Cedara, Atlantic White (Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) B.S.P. Cupressaceae) The genus Chamaecyparis is composed of 6 or 7 species, with 4 in Japan/Formosa and 3 in North America. The North American species are:

Scientific Name

Common Name

C. lawsoniana

 Port Orford Cedar

C. nootkatensis

Alaska Cedar

C. thyoides

Atlantic White Cedar

                        aIdentification and separation of North American species possible based on micro-anatomy (Kukachka, B.F. 1960. Identification of coniferous woods. Tappi  43(11):887-896).

 

                Redcedar/Juniper (Juniperus spp./Cupressaceae) consists of 35 to 50 species distributed in North America (10), Africa (2), Asia (6) and Europe (6). All species look alike microscopically.

Eastern North America

Europe/Middle East

Eastern Redcedar

J. virginiana

Common Juniper

J. communis

Southern Redcedar

J. silicicola

Grecian Juniper

J. excelsa

 

 

Stinking Juniper

J. foetidissima

 

 

Syrian Juniper

J. drupacea

 

                Cedar, Northern White (Thuja occidentalis L./Cupressaceae) is composed of about 6 species, world wide, native to North America (2) and Asia (4). This genus also contains Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata Donn.), native to the western US. The wood of all species in this genus looks alike microscopically. The word thuja comes from the Greek thuia, an aromatic wood (probably a juniper).

 

                Cedar, True (Cedrus spp./Pinaceae) contains 4 species listed below, native to North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

  .Common Name

Scientific Name

Native To

Atlas Cedar

C. atlantica

North Africa

Cyprus Cedar

C. brevifolia

Cyprus

Cedar of Lebanon

C. libani

Asia Minor

Deodor

C. deodora

Himalaya

 

Cypress (Cupressus spp./Cupressaceae) is composed of about 13 species native to the Northern Hemisphere (2 are European). None are native to the Eastern United States.

Western North America

Eurasia

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Arizona Cypress

C. arizonica

Italian Cypress

C. sempervirens

Californian Cypress

C. goveniana

Himalayan Cypress

C. torulosa

Mexican Cypress

C. lusitanica

 

 

Monterey Cypress

C. macrocarpa

 

 

 

                Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii/ Pinaceae) contains about species native to eastern Asia and western North America.  The North American species is P.  menziesii, or Douglas –Fir.                  

                                           

                Fir (Abies spp./Pinaceae) contains 33 to 40 species that grow in Central and North America (14), North Africa (2), Europe (1) and Eurasia (25). All species look alike microscopically, although the western American species and the European species (with colored ray contents and crystals) can sometimes be separated from those of eastern America.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Balsam Fir

A. balsamea     

Caucasian Fir

A. nordmanniana

 

 

Greek Fir

A. cephalonica

 

 

Silver Fir

A. alba

 

 

Spanish Fir

A. pinsapo

 

                Larch (Larix spp./Pinaceae) contains about 10 species, native to North America (3) and Eurasia (7). The wood of all species looks alike microscopically. Larix is the classical name of Larix deciduas Mill., or European Larch.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Tamarack

L. laricina

Dahurian Larch

L. gmelinii

 

 

European Larch

L. decidua

 

               Pine (Pinus spp./Pinaceae) is composed of at least 93 species world-wide and can be separated into three groups based on their micro-anatomy; the Red Pine Group, the White Pine Group and the Yellow or Hard Pine Group.

                The Red Pine Group contains about 18 species that grow in Asia (10), Europe/Mediterranean  (5), Central America  (1) and North America  (1). To my knowledge, there are two commercial species, Red Pine (P. resinosa) from North America and Scot's Pine, Scotch Pine or Deal (P. sylvestris) from Eurasia. All species in this group look alike microscopically.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Red Pine

P. resinosa

Black Pinesa

P. nigra

 

 

Dwarf Mountain Pine

P. mugo

 

 

Scots Pine

P. sylvestris

aThe Black Pines include: Austrian Pine (P. nigra ssp. nigra), Crimean Pine (P. nigra ssp. pallasiana), Corsican Pine (P. nigra ssp. laricio), Dalmatian Pine (P. nigra ssp. dalmatica), and Pyrenean Pine (P. nigra ssp. salzmannii).

 

                With respect to frames of pictures and looking glasses, Heckscher (American Furniture in the Met... Late Colonial Period: The Queen Anne & Chippendale Styles) states that Spruce and Red Pine Group (Scotch Pine, Pinus sylvestris) indicate English origin. Samples for this study were microscopically analyzed. It has been my experience that, with respect to high-style furniture (Queen Anne and Chippendale), the species is most likely P. sylvestris, because P. resinosa was not available to craftsmen in the colonies.  Assuming that the distribution of P. resinosa is approximately the same as today, it would have been far inland, in hostile territory.  It may, however, turn up in Canadian furniture.

 

                Pine (Pinus spp./Pinaceae) is composed of at least 93 species worldwide and can be separated into three groups based on their microanatomy; the Red Pine Group, the White Pine Group and the Yellow or Hard Pine Group.

                The White Pine Group contains 19 species that grow in Asia (10), Europe(2), Central America(1) and North America(6).All species in this group look alike microscopically. However, Assuming the object is pre-19th Century, neglecting importation of timbers (ship masts, crates, etc.), and assuming the wood in question is of commercial importance (grows in large areas), all species in this group can be eliminated except Pinus strobus which is native to the northeast USA & Canada.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Eastern White Pine

P. strobus

Arolla Pine

P. cembra

 

 

Macedonian Pine

P. peuce

               

                Pine (Pinus spp./Pinaceae) is composed of at least 93 species worldwide and can be separated into three groups based on their microanatomy; the Red Pine Group, the White Pine Group and the Yellow or Hard Pine Group.

The Yellow or Hard Pine Group contains 43 species that grow in Asia (2), Europe(3), Central America(18) and North America(20).All species in this group look alike microscopically. Some people mistakenly name this group "Southern Pine". While most North American species are more or less southern in distribution, several species currently grow above the Mason-Dixon Line including Shortleaf Pine (P. echinata), Table-Mountain Pine (P. pungens), Pitch Pine (P. rigida), Jack Pine (P. banksiana), and Virginia Pine (P. virginiana). Pitch Pine currently extends well up into the Hudson and Connecticut River Valleys.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Jack Pine

P. banksiana

Canary Island Pine

P. canariensis

Loblolly Pine

P. taeda

Maritime Pine

P. pinaster = (P. maritima)

Longleaf Pine

P. palustris

 

 

Pitch Pine

P. rigida

 

 

Pond Pine

P. serotina

 

 

Shortleaf Pine

P. echinata

 

 

Slash Pine

P. elliottii

 

 

Spruce Pine

P. glabra

 

 

Virginia Pine

P. virginiana

 

 

               

The “Parrya” Pine Group contains about 5 species native to Europe.

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

 

 

Aleppo Pine

P. halepensis

 

 

Calabrian Pine

P. brutia

 

 

Balkan Pine

P. heldreichii

 

 

Bosnian Pine

P. leucodermis

 

 

Stone Pine

P. pinea

 

                Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl./Taxodiaceae) is represented by one species (S. sempervirens). A related tree, the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is also called redwood, big tree or giant redwood. The word sequoia was selected to honor Sequoyah (also spelled Sequoia), or George Guess (1770?-1843), Native American inventor of the Cherokee alphabet. The name was unexplained by its author, an Austrian linguist and botanist.  The name sempervirens means evergreen. The wood of Sequoia is anatomically distinct from other softwoods. Other common names include: Amerikansk sekvoja, California cedar, California redwood, Californische redwood, coast redwood, corla, giant-of-the-forest, Humboldt redwood, ledwood, Mexican cherry, palo colorado, pin rouge d'ambrique, pin rouge d'Amerique, pino rosso d'america, sequoia de California, sequoia roja, sequoia rossa, sequoia toujours vert, sequoie, vavona, vavona burr.  Redwood is native to the Pacific Coast region from extreme southwestern Oregon (Curry County) south to central California (Monterey County).  Redwood trees reach heights of 200 to 300 feet (60.96 to 91.44 m), with diameters of 6 to 12 feet (1.83 to 3.66 m). The record is 376 feet (114.60 m) tall, with a 20-foot (6.10 m) diameter and an age of 2,200 years, and represents the world’s tallest tree.  The sapwood of redwood is narrow and white, while the heartwood varies from a light cherry to a dark mahogany. The heartwood has no characteristic odor or taste. The wood has exceptionally straight grain, coarse texture, high dimensional stability and is resistant to warping. The wood is moderately strong in bending, strong in endwise compression, stiff and moderately low in shock resistance. Typical old-growth redwood is moderately light in weight, moderately strong and stiff, and moderately hard.

 

                Spruce (Picea spp./Pinaceae) contains 30 to 37 species that grow in Asia/Orient/Mediterranean (15), North America (7) and Europe (3). All species look alike microscopically in their basic anatomy. However, Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) from western North America consistently contains crystals in its rays. On rare occasions, when one finds these crystals in colonial furniture, it’s provenance is most likely English or European, as species from eastern North America never have these inclusions.  The commercial species are to my knowledge:

Eastern North America

Europe

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Black Spruce

P. mariana

Norway Spruce

P. abies

Red Spruce

P. rubens

Serbian Spruce

P. omorika

White Spruce

P. glauca

 

 

 

                Yew (Taxus spp./Taxaceae) contains about 10 species native North America (2), Central America (1) and Eurasia (6). The wood of all species looks alike microscopically. The word taxus is the classical Latin name, from the Greek taxos.

North America

Eurasia

Common Name

Scientific Name

Common Name

Scientific Name

Pacific Yew

T. brevifolia

English Yew

T. baccata

Florida Yew

T. floridana

Chinese Yew

T. sumatrana

 

 

Japanese Yew

T. cuspidata

 

 

 

 

 

References Used

 

Chudnoff, M. 1984. Tropical Timbers of the World. USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook No. 607. Washington, D.C. 464 pp.

 

Constantine, A. 1975. Know Your Woods. Charles Scribner & Sons. 360 pp..

 

Elias, T.S. 1980. The Complete Trees of North America. Field Guide and Natural History. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York. 948 pp.

 

Latham, B. 1957. Timber. Its Development and Distribution. A Historical Survey. George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London.303 pp..

 

Little, Jr., E.L. 1979. Checklist of United States Trees (Native and Naturalized). USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook No. 541. Washington, D.C. 375 pp.

 

Mabberley, D.J. 1987. The Plant-book. A Portable Dictionary of Higher Plants. Cambridge University Press, New York. 706 pp.

 

Polunin, O. 1976. Trees and Bushes of Europe. Oxford University Press, London. 208 pp.

 

Record, S.J. & R.W. Hess. 1943. Timbers of the New World. Yale University Press.