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Species and "Species Groups"


At North American Wood Products, it is our business to understand our customers specific needs and to know the specifics about the wood we source. Contact us with any questions about species and availability.
 

 
North American Hardwoods
by Common Name
by Scientific Name
 
North American Softwoods
by Common Name
by Scientific Name
 
 
Global Woods
by Common Name
by Scientific Name
 
FSC® Certified Woods
by Common Name
by Scientific Name
 


Wood is a variable product of nature. Part of its beauty comes from the fact that no two pieces, even if they come from the same tree, look exactly alike. But for manufacturers of furniture, music instruments, or other products made of wood, consistency in color, grain, and texture can be critically important. The sheer size of our forest areas makes it difficult for buyers of wood seeking consistency to determine where to source their needs.

A specific species of wood may grow over an area of more than one million square miles (2.78 million square kilometers). The variations in growing conditions can be immense; average daily temperatures can vary twenty degrees or more; the length of the growing season may vary by up to four months. Rainfall, both the amount and the seasonal patterns will vary greatly over large regions. Soil types may vary from fertile loams, to hard clays. The soils may be deep or they may be shallow; they may be well drained or they may be swampy. The mineral content of the soils will also vary greatly. All of these factors and others will cause variations in color, texture, and mineral content of individual trees within a species or species group.

To complicate matters even more, many woods are marketed as species groups rather than as a single species. For example, of the hardwoods indigenous to North America less than forty percent of the total volume marketed consists of a single species. Shipments of ash, red oak, white oak, and hickory (or pecan), almost always contain several rather than just one, subspecies. More than forty species of red oak grow in North America. Over twenty are sawn commercially, and eight subspecies are considered to be commercially important. Shipments of red oak from northern states or Canada may not contain a single subspecies that will be contained in shipments from the most southerly regions.

While each of the subspecies in a “species group” share important physical properties (especially to a wood scientist under a microscope), they often also have important variations as well. Some of the variations that are apparent to everyone are color, texture, and heartwood or sapwood content. This may mean that one subspecies may work extremely well for a particular application, while another subspecies may not work at all. For example, while the “butt log” of “white ash” tree from the swamps of Louisiana may weigh less than two pounds per board foot and be excellent for the manufacture of guitars, it would not make good handles or baseball bats. The best “white ash” for baseball bats and handles may weigh 3.8 pounds per board foot and is not used for guitars.

How is the discerning wood buyer to learn about these important variations? The most expensive way to learn that you cannot use the wood from a particular region is to receive a trial container or truckload of it into your warehouse or yard. North American Wood Products can help you avoid that mistake. Talk to us about your product. How important is color? Color variation? Texture? Sapwood or heartwood? The better we understand our customers needs, the more accurately we will be able to source the specific raw material that meets those needs.

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