Wood Species Specifics




The cherry is the fruit many plants of the genus Prunus produce, and is a fleshy stone fruit commonly called a drupe. The cherry fruits sold commercially are obtained from a limited number of species. The native range of wild cherry in antiquity extends through most of Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed since prehistoric times. The first record of a cultivated cherry is dated from 72 BCE and was originally brought to Rome from modern day Turkey, today’s top commercial cherry producer.

Prunus serotina Domestic Cherry

Also known as American Cherry or Black Cherry, this tree has a wide distribution from Nova Scotia through Quebec and down into Eastern Texas and central Florida. Several geographic varieties occur in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as central Mexico and Guatemala. During its lifespan of approximately 200 years, the average height of the Cherry tree is 60 to 80 ft reaching 120 ft (36m) at its tallest, with a trunk diameter of 3 to 5 ft (1-2m). Generally it grows forming a single straight trunk, in a forest setting supporting a narrow oval crown, while in the open its trunk is shorter and broader supporting a crown wider and more irregular.

The fruit of the cherry has been used since colonial times for preserves, jellies, wine and baked goods. Pioneers flavored rum and brandy with it also. Colonists and indigenous peoples depended on other parts of this tree for a variety of uses. The young bark was often stripped and used in the production of cough remedies to treat bronchitis, and in the production of tonics and sedatives as well. The US is currently second top producing nation for commercially sold cherries in the world, producing 391 metric tons annually.

Like all fruit trees, cherry belongs to the rose family and this particular species of deciduous tree is of the subgenus Padus. The leaves are elliptical and grow to 5 in (13 cm) in length and 2 in (5 cm) wide, with pointed tip and fine, incurved blunt-pointed teeth. One or two deep red glands grow at the base of the blade on the leafstalk. The leaves are glossy green, with persistent hairs along the mid-rib, becoming yellow to yellow-red in autumn. Well after the leaves begin to emerge the flowers are borne in racemes-sprouting many-flowered clusters along a dropping stem in late spring. The flowers are small, with five white petals and about 20 stamens, approximately 40 flowers growing on each raceme. The species name serotina, means “late,” and refers to this tree flowering later in the season than many other cherry species.

A pioneer species in the Midwest, it is often seen growing mostly in old fields with other sunlight-loving species, such as Black Walnut, Black Locust, and Hackberry. It occurs as scattered individuals mixed with a variety of other hardwoods throughout its range, preferring moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soils out of river and stream floodplains. The root system of Black Cherry is shallow and wide spreading. Like apricots, the seeds of this cherry contain compounds that can be converted into cyanide with the right enzymes present. The foliage is also poisonous if eaten, particularly when wilted, as it contains compounds that convert to hydrogen cyanide when ingested and is a leading cause of livestock illness. Interestingly, while the foliage and seed contain the enzymes necessary for this conversion, the flesh does not and so it is safe to eat.

Domestic Cherry is an economically important hardwood; with commercially important stands largely restricted to the Allegheny Plateau of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. The heartwood of the Cherry is light pinkish brown when freshly cut and varies from rich red to reddish brown as it darkens with exposure to light and patina from aging. Contrastingly, the sapwood is creamy white. Wood has a fine uniform, straight grain, satiny, smooth texture, and may naturally contain brown pith flecks and small gum pockets. The heartwood is also rated as being very durable and resistant to decay. Known for being one of the best all-around woods for workability Cherry is stable, machines well and has a decent strength-to-weight ratio.




American Chestnut

Native to eastern North America, this large, deciduous tree of the Beech family was a prolific member of forests throughout the area. Once an important hardwood timber tree, the American Chestnut has been nearly wiped out by the unfortunate introduction of an Asian bark fungus, commonly known as Chestnut Blight. Several organizations are attempting to breed blight-resistant trees in the hope of reforesting the southern savannahs. Rapidly growing, this tree reached up to 100 ft (30 m) tall and 10 ft (3 m) in diameter, and ranged from Main to Mississippi. There are a few stands of American Chestnut remaining, found in Ohio and Wisconsin, outside of the blight’s range.

The American species of chestnut C. dentate can best be identified by larger and more widely spaced saw-teeth on the edges of its leaves. These leaves are 5-8 inches (14-20 cm) long and tend to be shorter than other varieties of chestnut. The flowers, borne in early summer, are individually tiny, but the male flowers are grouped into conspicuous, fragrant, white catkins. The American Chestnut’s preferred habitat is moist, fertile, well-drained soils in upland forests consisting of mixed hardwoods. This species is a prolific bearer of nuts, once a popular food staple and now a holiday novelty, with usually three enclosed in each spiny, green burr. The nuts develop through late summer, with the burrs opening and falling to the ground near the first fall frost. An important tree for wildlife, the chestnut provides much of the fall mast for animals to feed on.

The wood is straight-grained, strong and easy to work with. Rich in tannins, it is highly resistant to decay and can be used for a variety of purposes. Antique lumber is often salvaged from old cabins and barns as American Chestnut was once the predominant tree used in construction. “Wormy” chestnut is lumber taken from trees attacked by bugs once they were made susceptible by the blight. This lumber is still decay resistant, but has unique markings across the grain that lend to an antique look. Chestnut wood is a warm pale brown that darkens to a rich brown patina with age.




Pseudostuga menziesii, Douglas Fir

Members of the pine family, Pseudotsuga (meaning “false hemlock”) is a small genus of approximately five species distributed through eastern Asia and western North America. These are not true Firs, not being of the genus Abies, but shares many common features with Hemlocks and has been grouped with them in common usage. These evergreen coniferous trees are distinguished from other species of pine by their distinctive cones, which have prominent tridents bracts poking between the scales. The common name honors the Scottish botanist David Douglas, who first introduced the species into cultivation in 1827, and is also known for introducing many North American native conifers to Europe.

The taxonomy of the Asian Douglas-Firs continues to be disputed, but most recent taxonomic accounts accept four species: three Chinese and one Japanese. They are species of a restricted range and little-known outside of their respective native environments, where they are often rare and of scattered occurrence. Of the remaining species, the Douglas Fir native to North America is one of the most economically important timber species in the world and consists of two distinct geographic varieties, although some botanists have proposed a variety of pocketed subspecies throughout both ranges.

Coast Douglas Fir ranges from west-central British Columbia south to Central California west of the Cascades. Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir occurs in the mountains of its namesake in British Colombia and the inland mountains of the Pacific Northwest south into northern Mexico. Its range is continuous from western Wyoming and central Idaho northward; southward it is more scattered and restricted to mountain topography. Both varieties are found in a wide range of forest types, primarily in association with other conifers and some deciduous trees. Both also grow on a variety of soils, and will tolerate dry conditions, but prefer moist, well-aerated, deep, nutrient-rich soils.

Coast Douglas Fir prefers a moist, mild maritime climate and grows between sea level and about 5,000 ft (1,525 m) in the north, while further southward both lower and upper limits increase. It cannot tolerate temperatures below 14 F (-10 C) for more than a week, while the Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir occurs at low to middle elevations and is much more frost tolerant. Both are long-lived and may become the dominant species in a forest over time; however this tendency is more common for the Rocky Mountain variety. More shade-tolerant trees often replace the Coast Douglas Fir, or it is disturbed by fire or logging, after which it re-establishes itself in even-aged stands.

The Douglas Fir is a medium to large tree depending on variety and environmental conditions with a shallow and wide-spreading root system. The Coastal Fir grows about 250 ft. (76 m), while the Rocky Mountain type reaches about half that at 120 ft. (36 m). In the open, young trees often retain their branches close to the ground, while in forested settings the lower limbs are gradually shed to create a straight massive trunk and a high, relatively narrow, pyramidal crown. Needles are yellow-green, to about 1 in. (2.5 cm) long, and set spirally around the branches. The mature, red-brown female cones are 2 to 4 in. (5 to 10 cm) long, and are primarily borne at the tips of higher branches hanging downward.

Extensively grown for reforestation, landscapes and as the Christmas tree, the Douglas Fir is the most utilized timber tree in North America. Particularly the coastal variety as their height makes them more desirable. The wood has a very straight grain with a creamy yellow early-wood and reddish brown late-wood lines, disparate in strength and hardness that give the wood an overall orange cast in colour. 




The genus of hickory includes 17-19 species of deciduous trees, mostly occurring in eastern North America with a remaining few species native to southeastern Asia and Mexico. Characteristic of many eastern hardwood forest types, the hickories are all larger trees. Relatively long-lived, they can be found across a range of topography and soil types, with individual species having a strong preference for one type in particular. Often found in association with each other wherever their ranges overlap, naturally occurring hybrids are common. Intermediately shade-tolerant, hickories range from being slow-growing to moderately quick.

The leaves are alternately arranged and, like the walnut, pinnately compound with five to eleven leaflets depending on the species. The flowers are tiny, without petals, and inconspicuous emerging with the leaves in spring. Male flowers are born in loose three-branched catkins at the end of branches with the female flowers in small clusters at the ends of others. They are self-incompatible and like other catkin bearing trees, wind-pollinated. The fruit is a large nut within a relatively thick husk that usually splits when ripe. The shell is thick and bony in most species, and thin in a few. In a number of species, most notably the Pecan, the seed inside of the nut is edible. There is a great variability in flavor from one cultivar to the next; however, they are all high in unsaturated fat with strong medical antioxidant properties. Members of the Walnut Family, Hickories are an economically important group of trees. Not only valued for their palatable seed harvests, several species of hickory wood are prized for being hard and impact-resistant. Some hickories also make wonderful shade trees on suitable larger sites, their fall colour usually an excellent warm, antique gold.

In the natural state of hardwood forests, hickory trees have hybridized easily and readily within the species to produce a multitude of variations and expressions of characteristics that possess the traditional vigor of the tree. One notable example of this is a natural hybridization between Shagbark Hickory and Pecan. The resulting nuts seem to have flavor and characteristics somewhere between the two species and has started to become popular with nut hobbyists under the moniker ‘Hican.’

Carya illinoensis Hickory Pecan

Arguably the most economically important food crop native to North America, its noncommercial range encompasses the bottomlands of the Mississippi River, from Indiana through Illinois and south to the Gulf of Mexico where it can be found in the surrounding mountains. The Pecan has a strong preference for well-drained loamy soils and is largely limited throughout its range to the sediment of rivers and streams where it is not subject to too much flooding.

A large deciduous tree, growing to heights of 130 ft (40 m) during its lifetime, Hickory Pecan may live and bear edible seeds for more than 300 years, producing on average 100 pounds (40kg) of nuts each year. It is usually a single-trunked tree, with a number of large ascending limbs that develop into an irregular crown. Their leaves are alternately arranged in the typical pattern for hickories and reach lengths of 20 in (50 cm). The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins, the male flowers of which cluster into pendulous groups up to 7 in (18 cm) long. The nuts are typically harvested around mid-October.

The wood of Hickory Pecan has a golden to creamy colour, with reddish heartwood. It is close grained, dense, and very hard; one of the hardest woods readily available making it especially suitable for many applications. A number of finishes can be used, as the wood takes stain well after drying.

Carya ovata Shagbark Hickory

With an extensive range throughout North America this species of hickory can be found anywhere east of Texas and Minnesota and as far north as southern Quebec. It is its distinctive, shaggy bark, conspicuous on tall straight trees, which gives the species its name. However the bark does not begin to shred until the tree is about 25 years and until then has a shiny, smooth bark. Growing best in humid climates on rich, deep, moist soils of various composition, this fairly shade tolerant tree is found in many mixed hardwood forests. Moderately long lived, the Shagbark Hickory reaches 80 ft (25 m) during its 200 years, with a single dominant trunk that penetrates the canopy. When open grown the crown is broadly oblong, but tends to be narrow and columnar in forested conditions.

The five to seven leaflets form the typical hickory leaf 10 in (25 cm) in length, which turn the typical rich gold in autumn. The fruit of this hickory is generally borne in clusters of two or three at the ends of branches. Round and smooth with grooved sutures where the husk splits when ripe, releasing a light beige, four-ridged nut containing an edible seed.

A commercially important tree for its timber and its seed, the wood is regarded the best of the hickories. Tough, hard and resilient this wood is known for its impact and stress resistance and is widely used for furniture, flooring, tools, sporting equipment and a variety of other implementations.

Carya laciniosa Shellbark Hickory

Also known as Kingnut for having the largest fruit of any hickory, this deciduous tree prefers wet, fertile bottomland and like other hickories is very tolerant of summer drought. Similar to the Shagbark species, but not quite so shaggy it is less common than either Shagbark or Bitternut species. The wood is similar to Shagbark in that it is highly impact and stress resistant and is used much in the same way. Shellbark is a heavy, dense, strong yet elastic wood that is sought after for a number of uses.

Carya tomentosa Mockernut Hickory

Reaching heights of 100 ft. (30 m), this single -trunked tree attains its best growth on fertile, deep upland soils ranging from Massachusetts to Florida and eastern Texas. In the south is may also be found on moist bottomlands, and in the north preferring rocky, sandy slopes and hill-sides. It is often found in association with a variety of other hardwood trees and pines. The typical hickory-type leaves are 20 in (50 cm) long and composed of seven or nine leaflets. The fruit is brown and roughly elliptical with a thick husk.

The wood is hard, tough, and strong. The heartwood is a brown or reddish colour. Typically straight grained, but can be wavy or irregular and the texture is somewhat coarse. The strength of the lumber depends on varying rate of growth and can be difficult to work with while still taking a good finish.

Carya glabra Pignut Hickory

This tree grows well in fairly rich, well drained to dry souls and occurs with other hickories and oaks, characteristically on hillsides and ridges. The fruit of this hickory is particularly bitter and as a food source, only important for foraging wildlife. Shallow furrows and ridges in a semi diamond pattern may mark the firm, grey bark of this species. It has medium-green broad, flat leaves which turn a bright yellow for fall. As with other hickories, the wood of this variety is tough and strong.

Carya cordiformis Bitternut Hickory

Also known as the Yellow-bud Hickory, as it is this expression that makes it easy to distinguish from other species. Combined with the alternate compound leaves and relatively large nuts it is a distinctive tree. The lighter coloured shallow cracks in the younger bark are similar to those of young Shagbark Hickory, but the mature bark does not split so deeply as its kin.

Found on moist, fertile soils in the east and central US this species of hickory is shade intolerant and is not found at high altitudes. This fast growing, adaptable tree is best known for its hard wood and forms a broad crown when open-grown. A single-trunked tree, the Bitternut often grows to 80 ft (24 m) and the pinnately compound leaves typically have seven or nine stalkless leaflets that turn a rich yellow-gold in autumn.





Of the family Aceraceae, this well-known group of trees contains 125 species worldwide, mostly found in the temperate regions of East Asia. Of these species approximately 12 are native to North America, and are found in a wide variety of habitats, except the very cold and very dry. Seven of these species are trees at maturity, two are shrub-like in character, and the rest vary depending on local conditions. Huge and robust to decidedly small and delicate and from drab autumnal drapery to breathtakingly colourful displays, maples have a variety of visual representations. Considered one of the harder woods, these trees vary in their responses to pollution and environmental circumstances, from extremely adaptable to finicky in their growth. The common characteristics of this species are found in the subtleties of the trees development. Structurally, the iconic leaves and buds are borne in pairs along the stem. Branches also tend to be paired, although disparate in strength. The flowers are generally inconspicuous, opening in spring and are followed by distinctive winged fruit, which are commonly called keys. The leaves are often palmately lobed in the recognizable shape of an open palm, with three or five being the most common number. An example of exception to the rule, is the Boxelder with as many as nine lobes. All maples are shallow and fibrous rooted. This often presents difficulties in landscape applications as little can grow beneath them. The roots, in their search for water, also tend to clog drainage tile and sewers. There are 12 recognized species of maple, most of them native to central and east Asia, with a few in Europe, northern Africa and North America. One type of maple, native to the Southern Hemisphere, is the poorly studied Acer laurinum, which is found on some islands in Indonesia. While it does not have the traditionally lobed leaves of most maples, it does maintain the distinct leaf and branch pairing. Of the species found in Asia, the Amur Maple has the most extensive habitat. Native to Korea, Japan, Mongolia, and Siberia it grows to a maximum height of 20 ft and is more commonly referred to as the Siberian Maple. Of comparable stature, the Japanese Maple has similar distribution throughout Asia, although not as far north as the Amur, and is native to China, Korea, and Japan. The two species with the smallest native habitat are both found in eastern Asia, the Vine Leaf Maple of Japan and the Paperbark Maple, native to central China. Both of these can reach heights of 30 ft, although generally stay on the smaller side. Moving across western Asia and into Europe, native territories start to expand. Extending from southwestern Asia and into Europe the Hedge, or Field Maple as it is commonly called, can be found and grows between 25 and 35 ft tall. Below are the species native to North America and their distinguishing characteristics.

Acer glabrum Rock Maple, Douglas Maple, Rocky Mountain Maple

This generally small tree with short trunk and irregular crown is native to the northern Rockies and coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Fond of moist growing conditions it is found primarily along streams and rivers, often reaching approx 30 ft (10 m) in height. It is valued as an ornamental among arborists for its reddish fall display.

Acer macrophyllum Oregon Maple, Bigleaf Maple, Broadleaf Maple

The most common maple in North America, this species prefers gravelly, moist soil and is found along the Pacific coast from California to southern British Columbia. As pseudonyms suggest, very large leaves distinguish the Oregon Maple, usually 12 inches (30cm) in width and almost as long. On vigorous branches and young trees, they will reach up to 24 inches (60cm). The largest and longest living native maple, it can reach heights of 100ft (30m) during its 250 year lifespan. This species is moderately shade-tolerant in forested conditions, tending to form a straight trunk for at least half its height, with a narrow crown. In more open conditions it will grow a shorter trunk and a broad, rounded crown. Generally it's not grown ornamentally unless in large-scale installations.

Acer negundo Box Elder, Manitoba Maple, Ash-leaf Maple

Fast-growing, weak-wooded, and often considered an invasive species this tree is easily able to establish itself in most conditions. Native to lakeshores and stream banks, with a preference for seasonally flooded and disturbed sites, it exploits exposure to full sun and quickly takes root. Within the two centuries since colonization it has expanded its already wide distribution from throughout the eastern United States, across the Great Plains in both the US and Canada, even into California. It is now in nearly every corner of the continent, taking its particular liking for disturbed sites, and now flourishing amidst urban decay. Its tolerance for abused and deteriorated soils, make its otherwise invasive tendencies quite useful. Used in shelter-belts and street planting, this species will quickly grow to 70ft (21m) high, with a generally short trunk and a broad uneven crown of crooked limbs and branches. As with most fast-growing, weak-wooded trees, it is short-lived at about 65yrs. Unique for having a variably, pinnately divided leaf it will have up to seven and sometimes nine leaflets per leaf on developing trees. The seeds are extraordinarily viable and will germinate in the spring. Syrup can be distilled from its sap, similar to the Sugar Maple, however it is considered inferior in quality.

Acer pensylvanicum Striped Maple, Snakebark Maple, Moose Maple

A small tree of northern woods, this maple is found in forests from Ontario and Nova Scotia to Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey. Reaching heights and breadths of approx 30 ft (9 m) in the understory where preferred soil conditions are cool, moist, well drained and quite acidic. In cultivation this tree usually reaches 20 ft (6 m) under similar soil conditions. It can however, be badly scorched by the sun, especially in dry soil. The twigs are a favored food of moose and deer, and trees are often established by game wardens to provide browse in winter. The inner bark was traditionally used by Native peoples for medicinal purposes, from an emetic to a gargle for sore throats.

Acer rubrum Red Maple, Swamp Maple, Soft Maple

Known to have the most extensive natural range of any deciduous tree in eastern North America, the habitat of this maple is found from the Florida everglades to the mixed forests around Lake Superior. In native habitats, consisting of cool, most, acidic soil adjacent to swamps and marshes it can reach heights of 80 ft (25 m) and lives on average to 130 years. It can be tolerant of other soils, if they are not alkaline or compacted, however they will generally not grow as large. The crown tends to be narrow and high when in the forest, lower and more rounded when open grown. This maple does not perform well in dry or polluted environs, or close to roads, where salt spray occurs from traffic in winter. It has scarlet flowers, which open in very late winter or early spring. These mature into keys, also crimson in colour, until they are shed in mid-June, when they are dry and tan in colour. Leaves are usually three-lobed with fine teeth around the edges and ranging in colour from silvery to mid-green.

Acer saccharinum Silver Maple, Soft Maple

A rapid-growing tree of eastern North America, this maple reaches heights in excess of 100 ft. (30 m) during its 100-year lifespan. In forest conditions the crown is high and open, as with other species grown in the open the trunk is shorter, developing into a number of outward-arching limbs. Its preferred setting is moist, rich bottomlands near water. It is adaptable to other soils, however may not thrive in shade and alkaline conditions. While fairly tolerant of urban conditions, planted as a street tree the roots can clog drainage tile and sewers. Weak-wooded and prone to rot, it tends to drop branches in storms. The deeply five-lobed leaves are coarsely toothed and while it is closely related to the red maple they generally turn pale yellow-green or brownish before dropping in autumn. Flowers appear in late February to early April, individually small but tend to cluster, producing keys in vast numbers that drop in mid-June.

Acer saccharum Sugar Maple

If only for its glorious autumnal display, the Sugar Maple is one of the more notable trees of North America. Greatly prized for maple syrup as well as its timber, this is one of the more prevalent forest trees, often found in extensive pure strands. Some authorities recognize Black Maple (A. nigrum), Big-Toothed Maple (A. grandidentatum), Florida Maple (A. barbatum), and Chalk Maple (A. leucoderme) as subspecies, while others treat these as separate species, differing in range, ecological preference, autumnal display, and minor characteristics. In forest settings it can reach 120 ft. (35 m) and live from 300 to 400 years. However in cultivation, as lifespan is often shortened, the maximum size is about 70 ft. (20 m). The trunk develops into one to three major ascending limbs. Immediately following the small, clustered, yellow-green flowers, leaves emerge in May quickly expanding into the classic five-lobed maple-leaf shape. Foliage is often confused with the introduced Norway Maple, which produces a milky sap when the leaf-stem is broken. Keys ripen in late summer and early autumn, with an easily identifiable rounded green body. This tree prefers moist, well-drained, fertile, and slightly acid soils laid over limestone bedrock. In cultivation these same preferences apply, and while there is some tolerance of neutral or slightly alkaline soils it has a high susceptibility to damage from air and water-borne pollutants. This species performs especially well in the company of other trees. Maple lumber is broadly classified into two groups, hard maples and soft maples. While they are all technically hardwoods this classification is in response to general the characteristics and woodworking properties of the tree. Hard maples include the Sugar Maple and Black Maple, the majority of which are harvested in the Middle Atlantic and Great Lake States. This type of wood is heavy, durable, and resistant to shock. A large portion of this lumber is used for flooring, furniture, butchers blocks, and musical instruments. This wood is easy to use and durable. Types which are considered soft maples include Silver Maple, Red Maple, Boxelder, and the Bigleaf Maple. While not as heavy and strong as the hard maple this wood is still durable and is used in a number of applications from railroad cross ties to furniture.




With its distinct fruit, the acorn, and spiraling leaf pattern, the Oak tree is easily identified. However these similarities are only a few, in a diverse species whose terrain spans from cool to tropical latitudes. A member of the Beech Family and the genus Quercus, the oaks comprise a vast group, with approximately 450 cataloged species throughout the world. There is dispute as to the exact number recognized by horticulturalist trades as there is a high rate of hybridization. They are characterized by alternating, simple, deciduous or evergreen leaves with lobed, toothed, or entire margins, and are primarily trees, however there are some shrubs, mostly dependent upon habitat and growing conditions. Most, but not all, prefer deep, moist, well-drained soils, which are often fairly acidic and nutrient-deficient.

Primarily plants of the Northern Hemisphere, oaks are found in the temperate and tropical regions of southeastern Asia, Central and South America. Between 75 and 80 of these species are native to North America, with about half as trees. The flowers are called catkins, a narrow cluster with inconspicuous petals, which blooms in mid-spring. Interestingly it is this wind-pollination that allows the oaks to interbreed fairly freely where their canopies overlap, the offspring of which generally displaying traits of both parents. From the borders of swamps to dry uplands, the oak tree can be found in a variety of shapes and habitats.

The oaks of North America are distinguished into two groups by easily identifiable characteristics in bark, leaf, and acorn. The primary difference between these groups is the length of time for an acorn to mature, one season or two. The annual-fruiting trees have leaves with rounded lobes and generally pale bark. These are the White Oaks. The Black Oaks are biennial fruiting, whose leaves have lobes that end in angles and bristly tips. Their bark is also darker, as name suggests, although this should not be used as the only determining characteristic.

Quercus alba, White Oak

An important economic tree since colonial times, this species of oak was once extensively used in shipbuilding and is currently the major source of wood for cooperage. It is also highly valued in the construction of furniture, flooring, and caskets. Slow-growing and difficult to transplant, this long-lived tree reaches an average height of 100 ft (30 m) during its 600 year life span. This species tends to establish itself after disturbances, such as fire, however it is slowly being replaced as seedlings cannot persist in the shade of the canopy. With a wide, straight trunk, this tree grows well in both forested and open conditions. A dominant tree in many hardwood plant communities it can be found from southeastern Quebec to Maine, down into northwestern Florida and west into Texas, anywhere from sea level to 5,900 ft (1,800 m). It grows best on deep, well-drained and moist loams, but can be found on a variety of soils, including gravelly and rocky terrain provided they are also well-drained where roots can grow deep. The pale brown wood distinctly shows narrow annual rings comprised of two bands. A coarse and porous “spring wood,” followed by a narrower band of find, close-grained summer growth.

Quercus rubra, Northern Red Oak

Important for timber production in the United States, the Northern Red Oak is the only member of the Red Oak-Black Oak subgenus to be used commercially. This oak tree with bristly lobed leaves which turn red in the fall is often found in pure strands and common in many forested habitats. This is tree is native to the northern part of the US and ranges from Oklahoma to Georgia. While this tree grows best on deep, fertile, well-drained but moist, and fine-textured soils, it can be found in a variety of other conditions. One of the fastest growing oaks, this tree usually attains heights of 90 ft (27 m), although it may reach 160 ft (49 m) depending. Under optimal growing conditions, a 10-year-old tree can be 15-20 ft tall. This characteristic is a boon for the lumber industry as its wood is highly prized. Red oaks are a generally long-lived species, up to 500 years, as such they persist in well-established forests despite being only moderately shade-tolerant.

Quercus macrocarpa, Bur Oak

Though slightly darker, this wood is classified with the White Oak and contains the same desirable qualities that are pleasing to the eye. A rugged and ragged tree comparatively, the wood is tough and strong, durable wherever needed. This tenacious species has a range from Nova Scotia to Montana, growing in long tracks, and thrives in the arid soil of Nebraska and Dakota. Often found near waterways and an integral part of the eastern prairie ecology, this tree typically grows away from the forest canopy. One of the most massive oaks with a trunk diameter of up to 10 ft (3 m), this deciduous tree quite easily grows to 100 ft (30 m). It is one of the slowest growing oaks, with a rate of 1 ft (30 cm) when young and commonly lives to be between 200 and 300 years old. The leaves are 3-6 in long and about as broad, with a lobed margin. The acorns produced by the Bur Oak are the largest of any North American oak. Suited to urban conditions, this tree is one of the most fire-tolerant of the species.

Quercus prinus, Chestnut Oak

Unlike other White Oaks, the bark of this tree is dark in colour and deeply fissured. This richness is caused by a store of tannin in the bark and is often used to tan leather. Heavy and durable in soil, this close-grained wood is adaptable and well suited for outdoor applications. The leaves of this oak are 5 to 9 in long, coarsely toothed and appear in outline and size like those of the Chestnut tree. Native to the eastern United States, this is an important ridge-top tree, from southern Maine to central Mississippi. In the appropriate growing conditions that allow for a long straight trunk, the wood of this tree can be very valuable. However as a consequence of its generally dry habitat and ridge-top exposure these trees typically reach a height of 60-70 ft (18-22 m). 

Quercus platanoides, Swamp White Oak

One of the more important White Oaks for lumber production, this lowland tree is most common in western New York and northern Ohio, where it reaches its largest size. It can also be found from Quebec to Kansas and thrives in a variety of temperatures and habitats. It prefers to stand in wet ground, and is often found in swamps, although not where flooding is permanent. Typically growing 65-80 ft (20-25 cm) tall, with a trunk diameter of 2-4 ft, this tree can reach 300 years in age. The leaves are broad and shallowly lobed, with five to seven lobes on each side. In autumn they turn yellow-brown and sometimes reddish. Lumber from this oak is light to medium brown, with some variation in colour. This hard, durable species has a fairly coarse grain and has a high resistance to decay.

Quercus garryana, Pacific Post Oak

The only native oak in British Columbia, this trees terrain follows the valleys of the Coast Range into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Drought tolerant and fire resistant, this variety grows nearly 100 ft (30 m) high with a broad, compact crown, or as a shrub depending on conditions. The leaves are dark green and coarsely lobed turning the occasional bright scarlet in autumn. Employed in the manufacture of wagons and furniture, from ship-building to cooperage, this wood is hard, strong, tough, and close-grained.

Quercus agrifolia, California Oak

Also called the Coast Live Oak, this Evergreen Oak (highly variable and often shrubby), is native to the California Floristic Province. It grows west of the Sierra Nevada from Mendocino County, California and south to northern Baja California in Mexico. It is classified in the red oak section (Quercus sect. Lobatae). This species is commonly sympatric with Canyon Live Oak, and the two may be hard to distinguish because their spinose leaves are superficially similar. Coast Live Oak is the only California native oak that actually thrives in the coastal environment, although it is rare on the immediate shore; it enjoys the mild winter and summer climate afforded by ocean proximity, and it is somewhat tolerant of aerosol-borne sea salt. The coastal fog supplies relief from the rainless California summer heat.

Quercus robur, Pedunculate Oak, French Common Oak

One of two predominant species in the region, this tree can be found in long stands across Europe, from Ireland through France to the Caucasus and north to Scandinavia. Even 500 years ago, one third of Great Britain was still covered in oak forests. Flowering takes place in mid spring and its acorns, grown on long stalks amidst small and bunched leaf clusters, ripen by the following autumn. It is reference to these stalks that give this oak its unique common name. Reaching heights of 50 ft (15 m), these trees grow long and straight with trunk diameters up to 6 ft. When grown in the open they have broad and spreading, angular branches that form the crown. They are fairly hearty and do well transplanted, given appropriate care and conditions, and thrive in any fertile, well-drained soil, with sun or partial shade. A popular tree for English parks and often-romanticized in literature, these trees can easily exceed 500 years of age. The English Oak is planted for forestry, and produces a long-lasting and durable heartwood, which is highly prized for interior and furniture work.

English Brown Oak

From the coronation throne of the English monarchy to American courthouses, English Brown Oak is as durable as it is beautiful. While location and mineral content often affect not only a trees growth but also its appearance, the fungus Fistulina hepaticacauses this unique colouration in European species of oak. Commonly known as beefsteak fungus, it attacks susceptible trees of both Q. robur and Q. patraea, eventually turning the heartwood a rich butternut brown with distinctive markings. This affects approximately 1 in every 500 oaks across Europe, and despite what the common name suggests, the best examples often come from forests in Germany. The drying process can be a bit tedious, however once it is finished the fungus is completely dead, leaving the desirable heartwood sturdy and intact. High in tannins, which can corrode some metal fasteners, this wood is moderately decay resistant when used in outdoor projects. Its fine grain is also easy to work, with both hand and power tools.

Quercus petraea, Sessile Oak, French White Oak, Durmast Oak, Spessart Oak

A large, deciduous tree, the Sessile Oak grows from 65-130 ft and is similar to Q. robur in growth habits, with which it overlaps extensively in range, although extending further into France. There are however, significant botanical differences, larger stalked leaves, which are dispersed evenly throughout the branches and the stalkless (sessile) acorns, from which one of its common names is derived. This tree also tends to occur more abundantly in upland locations, nearly 1000 ft (300 m) above sea level, with higher rainfall and comparatively shallow, acidic, and sandy soils. In France these trees grow primarily in the forests of Allier, Limousin, Nevers, Troncais and Vosges and in Belgium.

These trees often exceed a couple of centuries in age. The wood, traditionally used for shipbuilding, is important for a number of applications, particularly timber framing and oak barrels.

Spessart Oak

The finest “French Oak” actually comes from the Spessart forest in Germany, where conditions are favorable for the growth of magnificent white oak trees. This forest has been tended for over 150 years, meticulously allowing for oak protection and growth as it takes a minimum of 300 years before a Spessart Oak is mature enough to harvest. The average growth of these trees is 20 to 30 growth rings per inch, creating a very fine tight-grained texture. The soil in Spessart is predominately red sandstone, with no minerals to stain the wood, and is well drained. Only three cubic meters from each hectare are harvested a year to prevent from degrading the resource. It is this long range view of forestry that allows Spessart to continue to provide a high quality, albeit limited resource for lumber.

Quercus mongolica, Mongolian Oak, Japanese Oak

This species of oak is native to most of eastern Asia and spans a vast region including both of its namesakes, most of northern and central China, and other small islands of the region. As its terrain suggests, this species of oak can withstand temperatures down to 5°F (-15°C) and prefers fertile, moist, well-drained soil, and like most oaks, is only partially shade tolerant. The dark-green leaves are 8 in (20 cm) or more and are borne in dense clusters at the ends of branches, which can grow to a span of 50 ft (15 m). The rounded crown of branches adorns sturdy trunks that can reach 70 ft (20 m) in forest conditions. Japanese Oak is a moderately light fine-grained wood and used in a number of applications.


The usefulness of the oak is well known and its praises have been sung as far back as the mid-400s B.C.E . As Heroditus, the father of ancient history recorded, “oak trees...have within their boughs, the gift of prophecy.” Purportedly, at least, or perhaps it is their versatility and breadth, not only of terrain but subtlety of species, that lends itself to the majesty of the oak. The oak is a common symbol of strength and endurance and is the national tree of many countries and many coat-of-arms. The oldest of these trees are around 1500 years old, found in both Europe and the Americas. One such example, nicknamed Kongeegen (King Oak), in Denmark is estimated to be between 1500 and 2000 years. Even the Latin name Quercus is in reference to its usefulness. From the word,” to eat”, we are reminded not only of its importance to small woodland creatures, but also of the indigenous foragers who included acorns as a staple of their diet.




In the genus Pinus, there are approximately 115 recognized species of pine. The largest and most widespread of trees, this genus is characteristic of many north temperate regions, especially at lower altitudes. The pines are divided into three subgenera based on cone, seed, and leaf characters: Pinus pinus- yellow or hard pine, Pinus ducampopinus-foxtail or pinyon, and Pinus strobus-white or soft. Native to most of the Northern hemisphere, the pine been introduced throughout most temperate and subtropical regions of the world, where they are grown as timber and cultivated as ornamental plants in parks and gardens.

The majority of the species of pine reach between 50 and 150 ft (15-45 m) tall. The tallest is a 268 ft tall Ponderosa Pine located in southern Oregon. Pines are long-lived, typically reaching ages of 100-1,000 years or more. One of the world’s oldest living organisms is a species of pine, dubbed Methuselah, which is dated at around 4,600 years old in the White Mountains of California. The pines are distinguished from other needle-leaved and coniferous evergreens, by the papery, enclosing sheath at the base of their needle clusters. Nearly one half of the 115 known species of pine grow in North America. Among them are pines for every situation, soil and climate. They wade in inundated swamps and climb to the timberline on arid, rocky mountainsides. Found in harsh deserts and seaboard plains; as shelterbelts, windbreaks, and for the production of naval stores, these trees are as useful as they are adaptable.

Pines grow well in acid soils, some also on soil where lime is heavily present. Most require good soil drainage, preferring sandy terrain. Several species are adapted to extreme conditions imposed by elevation and latitude, and a few require fire to regenerate. Among the most commercially important species of tree, they are valued for timber and wood pulp throughout the world. In temperate and tropical regions they are fast growing softwoods that thrive in relatively dense stands. Commercial pines are grown in plantations for timber that is denser, more resinous, and therefore more durable than spruce. Widely used in high-value carpentry items such as furniture, window frames, paneling, floors and roofing. The resin of some species is an important resource in the manufacturing of soap, paint, varnish, shoe polish, lubricants, and linoleum.

The Ponderosa, or Western Yellow Pine (P. radiata) is a hard pine, second only to the Douglas Fir as a main provider for commercial timber in North America. White Pine (P. strobes) has straight-grained soft wood with little resin, especially for interior trim and cabinetry. Once growing in dense strands from Newfoundland to Manitoba and over much of the eastern United States, forests have been depleted due to constant felling and White Pine blister rust.

The branches of the pine are produced in regular “pseudo whorls,” a very tight spiral but appearing like a ring of branches arising from the same point. Many pines are uniodal, producing just one such whorl a year. The spiral growth of branches, needles and cone scales are arranged in Fibonacci number ratios. Beneath most of those scales are contained small seeds; many species of pine produce these with wings suited for wind-dispersal.

The division of the pines is a convenient one, “soft pines” have soft, close-grained, light wood that is not heavily imbued with resin. The scales of cones are usually unarmed with horns or prickles. “Hard pines” have heavy, dark-coloured wood, full of resin and armored cones. Soft pines shed the characteristic papery sheath of their leaf bundles before the leaves themselves begin to drop. Hard pines retain the leaf sheath until the leaves are shed.

Yellow Pines

Longleaf Pine Pinus palustris

Native to the southeastern United States, this species of pine is found along the coastal plain from Texas to Virginia, and down into Florida where vast forests once stood as part of the eastern savannas. Seedlings resemble a green fountain of needles and can stay in this diminutive form for 5 to 12 years. It takes 100 to 150 to become a full size tree and may live up to 500 years. It reaches heights of 98-155 ft (30-35 m) and roughly two feet in diameter. This species of pine is very important to the production of timber. As it is rather resinous, the heartwood of this pine is resistant to rot and termites.

White Pines

White Pine Pinus strobes

The only pine east of the Rocky Mountains that bears its leaves in bundles of five, this semi-decimal growth pattern is shared with five western species. Before storms have broken any of the branches and disrupted the pattern the branching platforms of five are easily distinguished. In spring the terminal bud pushes out and is surrounded by five clustering buds forming a circle of shoots. In autumn, after season’s growth is finished, each twig ends in a single bud, with a whorl of five buds around it. Each whorl of five marks a year in the tree’s growth. Each branch is a year younger than the shoot that bears it. This tree is biennial-fruited, always carrying two sizes of cones. Ripe ones are five to ten inches long, with thin, broad, unarmed scales. The wood is lightweight, soft, even-textured and easily worked as it is the least resinous of all pines. It is straight grained with a fine, uniform texture that acquires an amber patina with age.

Mountain Pine Pinus monticola

The Mountain Pine is scattered through mountain forests along the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, and south along the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges, well into California. From the bottom lands of streams where it is most prevalent, reaching heights of 100 to 150 ft, it is also found in elevations of eight to ten thousand feet in the California Sierras. The leaves are contained in bundles of five, range from one to four inches in length. The cones are 12-18 inches long, with thickened, pointed scales ending in an abrupt beak. Where most trees would begin to diminish in size as altitude increases, these pines grow to majestic heights at altitudes of nearly two miles.

Sugar Pine Pinus lambertiana

Growing in the mountain forests of Oregon and California, John Muir calls it “the largest, noblest, and most beautiful of all the pine trees.” Trees two hundred feet high are not uncommon, with trunk diameters of 6-8 ft. the head of a Sugar Pine is rounded and broad, with pendulous branches, tufted with stout, dark green needles. The cones are the largest known, reaching 18 inches long. Crystals of sugar form white masses like rock candy wherever a break in the bark permits the escape of sweet sap. The wood of the Sugar Pine is soft, golden, satiny, and fragrant, inviting in every sense.

Rocky Mountain White Pine Pinus flexilis

The lumber pine of the semi-arid ranges of the “Great American Dessert”, this pine inhabits mountain slopes from Alberta to Mexico, including the Sierra Nevada range. It can reach 80 feet in height, although it ordinarily does not exceed 50. Its broad, rounded dome, bravely dares the wind on exposed cliffs. The “limber pine” a common moniker, as the toughness of its fiber enables the long limbs to sustain the thrashing of winds.




Probably best known for their edible nut, there are approximately 15 to 20 species of walnut throughout the world, and representatives can be found in the Americas, Europe, and southeastern Asia. Conservatively, there are only four species native to North America, although some specialists treat other varieties as distinct species in some regions. The Walnuts of North America are usually found in mixed forests with other hardwoods preferring moist, rich soil although they are adaptable. Generally fast growing, the Walnut ranges in size depending on species and growing conditions from small trees to rather large.

Walnuts have generally well-developed deep root systems, which makes them useful in planting to stabilize areas prone to erosion. However they produce a chemical that inhibits the growth of many plants within the reach of their roots, including other walnuts. They are not particularly shade-tolerant and live anywhere from 50 to 400 years depending on the species. The twigs have a chambered pith, which is a distinct characteristic of the walnut.

Juglans nigra, Eastern Black Walnut

This species of walnut is native to eastern North America and grows mostly in areas along river margins where the alluvial soil is rich and most, although still well drained, especially loams that are neither acidic nor alkaline. They can be found from Ontario to Florida and as far west as central Texas, and may also occupy slopes and dry ridges. This species of walnut is more resistant to frost than the English or Persian Walnut, but thrives best in warmer regions with fertile, lowland soils and high water tables. Seldom found in pure stands, Black Walnut is often found in association with five mixed forest cover types that are adapted for neither particularly dry nor particularly wet environments: Sugar Maple, Yellow Poplar, Yellow Poplar - White Oak - Northern Red Oak, Beech - Sugar Maple, and Silver Maple - American Elm. During this tree’s average lifespan of 130 years, on good sites it may attain heights of 100-130 ft (30-40 m) with a trunk diameter of 2-4 ft (60-120 cm). Forming a deep taproot with wide-spreading lateral roots, this species of walnut has been cultivated since 1686. In forest settings the trunk supports a small, high rounded crown, while in the open its short trunk develops a low spreading crown of stout branches. Black Walnut grows best on moist, deep, fertile, well-drained, loamy soils; although it also grows quite well in silty clay, loam soils or in good agricultural sites. These include coves, bottomlands, abandoned fields, and rich woodlands.

A toxic chemical naturally occurring in the leaves, buds, bark, nut husks, and roots of Black Walnut is highly selective, cell permeable, and an irreversible inhibitor in the functions of certain plants when exposed to it. When Black Walnut woodchips or sawdust is used for stall bedding or stables, or when paddocks are too close to a group of trees, horses can contract an acute inflammation of the foot from exposure to this toxin. Historically, both the indigenous people and settlers of the Americas have used various parts of the Black Walnut for a variety of purposes. Several tribes where Black Walnut is present depended upon it, using the bark in tea to remedy disease, or chewed to relieve toothaches or then applied to snake bites. Others also used the bark to make dark brown or black dye; some used the leaves in a similar process for green. Settlers used the husks in the same way to make dark dyes for their clothes. Today, the ground shell is a hard, durable, non-toxic, and biodegradable abrasive product used for blast cleaning, polishing, and some beauty products.

The leaves on this deciduous tree are alternate, along stems forming a long compound leaf between 1 and 2 ft (30-60 cm). With 9 to 23 leaflets and somewhat lustrous dark green, the petioles are covered with glandular hairs. Also typical of the walnut species the Black Walnut is monoecious with male and female flowers maturing at different times. The male flowers are cone like catkins 8-10 cm long developing from auxiliary buds on the previous years wood. The female flowers occur in two to eight-flowered spikes born at the shoots of the current year’s growth. The female flowers more commonly appear first and occur with or shortly after the development of leaves in spring. These flowers, once pollinated, ripen into fruit during autumn and fall in October. Black Walnut trees produce seeds at about 12 years of age, with good seed crops occurring every 2 to 3 years. Enclosed in a solid, non-splitting husk, the fruit of the walnut is born singly or in pairs, or occasionally in threes. Seeds, like most species of walnut, have a dormant embryo. This can be broken by fall sowing or by moist pre-chilling for a few months in agricultural practices. These kernels are high in unsaturated fat and protein and are commercially harvested for consumption as well as providing an important fall mast for woodland foragers. The majority of Black Walnut trees occur in natural stands, with walnut plantations accounting for approximately one percent of all the Black Walnut volume in the US. Since the last (1997) comprehensive inventory and summary of the Black Walnut resource in the eastern US, the number and volume of Black Walnut trees has increased in nearly every state except three.

Juglans nigra is the largest and most valuable timber tree of the Juglans species, and is hardy to USDA hardiness zone range of four to nine. Black Walnut is highly prized for its dark-coloured, true heartwood, which often ranges from a rich dark brown to purplish-black. Heavy and strong, yet easily split and worked, this versatile wood was historically used for gunstocks, furniture, flooring, paddles, coffins, and a variety of other products. It shrinks and swells less than any other wood, and is of medium density with moderate bending and crushing strengths. Durable and highly shock resistant it is generally straight grained, although sometimes wavy or curly patterning is present. The heartwood of this coarse textured tree is very resistant to biodegradation.