Home generalRecognize wood species - overview with 33 softwood and hardwood species

Recognize wood species - overview with 33 softwood and hardwood species

  • Difference between soft and hardwoods
    • Wood density and hardness
  • Species - from soft to hard

As different as trees are, so different are the types of wood they produce. There are fast-growing trees that can be used economically to fortify shores and as a means of restoration. However, your wood can only be used for thermal recycling. Other trees, in turn, grow very slowly, but provide a wood that has excellent optical and technical properties. Find out everything you need to know about the classification of wood species in this article.

More than just deciduous and coniferous trees

Although the rough distribution of tree species in deciduous and coniferous trees is largely correct. However, the classification of this classification does not stop. There are about 30, 000 different tree species in the world. Overall, they cover about 1/3 of the earth's surface. A census of satellite data shows that the amount of trees is about eight times higher than previously thought. Nevertheless, a careful and careful handling of the treasure that nature has made with the trees is inevitable.

Most of the diversity of tree species exists in the southern hemisphere, especially in the rainforest areas. In northern Europe, northern Asia and North America, the last ice age has dramatically thinned the diversity of tree species. Only 300 varieties remained, all of which are characterized by excellent survival characteristics.

Wrong folk wisdom

There is the folk wisdom that conifers basically belong to the soft, deciduous trees for the hard wood species. You should quickly forget that, because it is completely wrong: Alone the poplar, which clearly belongs to the deciduous trees, produces one of the softest woods ever. In principle, it is true that the group of deciduous trees provides more hardwoods and the group of conifers more softwoods. However, there are so many exceptions to this folk wisdom that it can only be mistaken.

Difference between soft and hardwoods

The hardness of a material is a defined, technical term that can be precisely determined by means of standardized procedures. The classification between hardwood and softwood is above or below a specified limit. However, this is not defined directly via a classical hardness value, such as Vickers, Shore or poppy hardness, but indirectly via the density. In wood one speaks of the "Darrdichte". The term "Darr" is closely related to "dry" and refers to wood that has been 100% freed from water under laboratory conditions.

The border between hardwood and softwood is 550 kg / m³. Everything about it is hardwood, every type of wood with a low density is softwood. In contrast to metals or minerals, there is a proportionality between the density and the hardness. This is by no means the case with metals: lead and tin are extremely heavy but very soft metals, while aluminum and zinc are quite hard but also relatively light.

Wood density and hardness

The proportionality between density and hardness of wood is quite simple to deduce: Wood consists of lignin and other pulps, which are fused together in a porous composite. The micropores in the wood provide water transport and can also act as storage. Fast-growing woods have many and large pores. You can take a lot of water and swim in the dry state. Slow growing hardwoods have significantly fewer pores. Their density can be so high that they do not swim on their own. The difference in density is therefore due to the structure rather than the actual material of the wood.

Species - from soft to hard

Balsa: Balsa wood is the lightest and densest wood in the world. It is a deciduous tree and has a density of 100-200 kg / m³. It is very much used for handicrafts and for the construction of model airplanes. It has a dark bark with a smooth structure and round to diamond-shaped leaves.


(Zitter) Poplar: The poplar is a deciduous tree and has a density of 410 kg / m³. He is so soft that he can be pushed in with his finger. The poplar is mainly used for bank anchoring, fast foraging and for the creation of habitats for animals. Economically, the poplar can only be used as firewood. It has a gray bark with a smooth to slightly rough structure and small, round leaves.


Spruce: Spruce is the most common conifer in Germany. It provides a light, fairly soft but technically usable wood with interesting, static properties. Its density is 430 kg / m³. The spruce has a dark, red-brown bark with a scaly-rough structure and long needles.


Fir: The fir is the second most important conifer in Germany. It serves to create timber plantations and habitats for forest animals. Firs have a density of 430 kg / m³. It has a dark bark with a scaly-rough structure and long needles. It has a dark, gray bark with a scaly-rough structure and short needles.


Willow: The willow is a deciduous tree, which is often found on the shore of stagnant or slow-flowing waters. Pastures are very popular due to the flexibility of their wood. They supply a wood with a density of 460 kg / m³. It is well recognized by the long, laced leaves and the continuous, bead-like structure of the bark.


Alder: The alder is a deciduous tree that belongs to the medium-heavy wood. It is good for roof trusses and other weatherproof constructions. The alder also gives a very fine charcoal, which was formerly used for the production of gunpowder. It has a density of 480 kg / m³. It has a smooth, chapped trunk and small, round leaves with a deep green color.


Pine (pine): Pines are pine trees with a density of 500 kg / m³. They have a very light wood with a honey yellow color. Pine wood is often used for furniture, veneers and parquets. The pine has a gray-brown, rough trunk with a typical structure of large scales. In addition, depending on the species, it can be easily identified by the long needles.


Douglas fir: The Douglas fir belongs to the coniferous trees, but is quite heavy with a density of 500 kg / m³. It gives a fairly weather-resistant wood with a pleasant, reddish color. It forms powerful trunks with brown-red, rough structure. Their needles grow flat and opposite each other on the branches.


Linde: The linden tree is a deciduous tree with a density of 510 kg / m³. It is used for the production of veneers and carvings. Her trunk is gray and rough. Their leaves are heart-shaped.


Pine (umbrella pine): The pine is a conifer with a density of 510 kg / m³. It is mainly cultivated for its large, shady crown and nutritious kernels. The wood of the pine compacts with age. As real timber, pine wood can only be used by older trees. Their characteristic distinguishing feature are the wide-spreading crowns.


Cherry: The cherry is a deciduous and fruit tree with an extremely high economic importance. When the cherry is beyond the age of its fruitive period, it supplies a hard and very popular wood for furniture making. Cherry wood has a density of 540 kg / m³.


Mountain ash: The mountain ash, also rowan berry tree, supplies a wood with a Darrdichte of 440 to 720 kg / m³. The wood is suitable for art carving work and was formerly used in the construction of cartwheels. It has a smooth, gray trunk and small, lenticular and lined leaves.


Larch: The larch is the third most important conifer in forestry. It delivers a heavy wood with a density of 550 kg / m³. It is mainly used as construction and furniture wood.


Elderberry: Although elderberry is commonly known only as a bush, this fruiting plant is actually a tree species. With a maximum height of 15 meters, however, they are certainly one of the small trees that have bush-like characteristics up to this size. It supplies a wood with the density of the earth from 550 to 740 kg / m³, but is hardly used economically except for fruit growing. It has a rough, red-brown trunk and a somewhat disheveled-looking crown.

Elm: The elm is a deciduous tree with a density of 600 kg / m³. The economically usable heartwood of the elm tree is called "Rüster". It provides an extremely valuable wood, which is very popular because of its low shrinkage in carpenters. It has a very rough stem in green-gray color. It is also recognizable on the leaves with their jagged edges.


Maple: The self-sown deciduous tree, seen in places as a weed, yields a wood with a density of 600 kg / m³ when fully grown. But until the maple reaches this density, several decades pass. He is very much used for quick reforestation because he grows extremely fast in his early years. But 50 to 100 years can pass before they are ready to be played. Then the wood of the maple is very much sought after and valuable. The maple has a smooth trunk and the characteristic, three- to five-lobed leaves.


Hazelnut: Hazelnut is a popular crop tree for food production. He delivers a wood with a density of 610 kg / m³. After its harvest period, it provides an extremely valuable wood for carpentry work of all kinds. Hazelnuts are easily recognizable by their small, fringed leaves and hanging umbels.

Walnut: Similar to hazelnut, walnut with 610 kg / m³ density is also suitable for furniture making. The leaves of the walnut are tall, thick, vigorous and have a smooth edge.


Teak: The highly oily teak is very popular because of its water-repellent properties. It is a pure imported wood from Asia with a density of 630 kg / m³.


Ash: Ash is a widespread deciduous tree throughout Europe with a density of 640 kg / m³. He supplies a very popular timber, which combines many excellent properties together.


Birch: The undemanding and fast-growing birch supplies a wood with a density of 640 kg / m³. It is used as a peeling veneer for the production of plywood boards. Birches are easily recognizable by their smooth, white stem.


Chestnut: The chestnut is a deciduous tree with a density of 650 kg / m³. It is considered one of the finest European timber for the furniture industry. Chestnuts are clearly visible on the prickly fruit bodies.


Oak: The oak is a deciduous tree with a density of 660 kg / m³. It is a standard wood in construction and furniture construction. Her dark and heavy wood is very durable.


European beech: The European beech is the deciduous tree most frequently represented in Germany. It has a density of 680 kg / m³. It is versatile but must be treated in case of outdoor exposure to fungal infestation.

European beech

Pear: The pear is a fruit-bearing deciduous tree with high economic importance. As timber, it supplies a building material for furniture construction with a density of 680 kg / m³. It is very popular because of its high workability.

Robinia: The deciduous tree Robinie is characterized by a heavy but very versatile wood with a density of 690 kg / m³. Like no other wood, it combines high flexibility with hardness and natural resistance to weathering and decay. This makes Robinia wood even interesting for shipbuilding.


Hornbeam: The heavy hornbeam wood weighing 720 kg / m³ density is used only sparingly as lumber. It is used in piano making or parquet, because it provides a high abrasion resistance.


Apple: Apple trees are deciduous trees with a density of 730 kg / m³. They are difficult to process, but supply valuable furniture wood.

Plum: The plum is a deciduous tree with a density of 750 kg / m³. It is difficult to dry and easily breaks during processing. Once dried, it can be used very well for making woodwind instruments.


Bamboo: The bamboo is an Asian grass species. It grows very fast and forms thin bark. Nevertheless, it is very hard with a density of 750 kg / m³. It is virtually not processed, but only cut and processed to build huts, canopies or tools.


Rosewood: The heavy rosewood is a deciduous tree with a density of 820 kg / m³. He is from India, Central and South America. He is a standard wood in the production of stringed instruments.

Ironwood: The enormously heavy ironwood, locally also called "Bongossi", is a deciduous tree from Africa. With a density of 1200 kg / m³, it is one of the hardest and heaviest types of wood in the world. It is resistant to fungi and weather resistant. Therefore, it is very suitable for water-near or weather-exposed constructions.

Pockholz: The guajac, German "Pockholz" called deciduous tree is the hardest wood in the world. With 1400 kg / m³ it is very popular because of its high resistance especially in shipbuilding. Its import is subject to approval.

Picture source: HDH (Main Association of the German Timber Industry)

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