Wood Types: Hardwoods, Softwoods and Conifers, Oh My!

Wood Types: Hardwoods, Softwoods and Conifers, Oh My!

We’re often asked about wood types and how to determine your trees’ wood types. It’s an interesting, beneficial tidbit to know but sometimes hard to determine. So, we’ve decided to dive in and discuss hardwoods, softwoods, conifers and more!

Wood Types: Hardwoods

As the name suggests, the wood of Hardwood Trees is often harder than the wood of other trees – it takes greater effort to cut them down. However, not all hardwoods have harder wood than softwoods. Hardwood leaves are often broad, flat, and thin, and in some cases, very large. They also have slower growth rates than softwoods.

Also, hardwoods can be evergreen, meaning they keep their leaves year around. However, most hardwoods are deciduous, meaning they shed their leaves every year, usually in the fall and sometimes in the winter. You can count deciduous hardwoods to provide you with beautiful fall color.

Evergreens

What really distinguishes these wood types from other trees is how they reproduce. Hardwood trees are considered to be angiosperms, or basically flowering plants. Angiosperms or hardwoods produce a fruit that encases their seeds, like cherries or walnuts.

Animals eat and digest the delicious fruit as well. Once the fruit has processed and expelled from the animal, then the seeds are left on the ground. This helps trees spread all over the forest!

Hardwoods often have sturdy, dense wood, making these wood types perfect for many different uses. They’re used to make high quality furniture, such as mahogany or oak desks and tables won’t let you down. Drum barrels and woodwind instruments are often made out of hardwoods, and hardwoods also make very tough floors.

Softwoods

Softwood Trees, as the name suggests, are softer trees that are generally easier to cut. Most softwoods have a lesser resistance to sawing than hardwoods. Furthermore, softwoods are gymnosperms, which translates directly from Greek with the meaning of naked seed. They release their uncovered seeds into the wind and often grow on cones. The seeds are spread over a wide area without the need for animals to spread them around.

Conifers are the most prevalent type of softwood trees. They’re mostly evergreen trees, with needles or scale-like leaves. Types of softwoods and conifers include pines, firs, spruces and more. Plus, they spread their naked seeds and live up to their name, because their name is derived from Latin and translates to cone bearer. Another characteristic of conifers and other softwoods is that they contain sap that stores water and nutrients. The sap spreads water and nutrients to different parts throughout the tree.

Evergreens

These wood types account for 80% of the world’s timber production, and their wood is often used indoor as window frames, doors, and furniture. Additionally, organs and pianos are often made out of various softwoods. Furniture made with softwood timber is often much lighter than furniture made out of hardwood.

Types of Hardwoods

The Quaking Aspen is a beautiful and sturdy hardwood. It has unique, heart-shaped leaves that tremble or quake in the wind, lending its name. This hardwood actually grows pretty fast, up to 5 feet per year, and can grow 40 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide. It loves the cold weather and is recommended for growing zones 2 through 6. , Best of all, rocky and sandy soils pose no threat!

The American Red Maple is a hardwood that can stand up to almost any climate. It’s recommended for growing zones 4 through 9, spanning nearly the entire country! The American Red Maple also gets very large, growing between 40 to 60 feet tall and 25 to 45 feet wide. With a growth rate of up to 3 feet per year, this is one fast-growing maple.

Maples

Its size and fast growth rate allows it to be used for a shade tree. And the huge canopies provided by American Red Maples create a lot of shade to cool off homes. The American Red Maple is also very tough, and has no problems with sandy or rocky soils.

Types of Softwoods

The Italian Cypress is a softwood with quite an interesting shape, growing straight and narrow. Italian Cypress trees quickly spring up, growing up to 3 feet per year. Plus, they have a very elegant look, especially when used to frame entryways or corners of homes. Also, they’re super versatile, doing well in pots and in the ground. This cypress tree is recommended for growing zones 7 through 11.

But let’s not forget that this is a softwood/conifer tree, meaning it drops naked seeds. The Italian Cypress drops cute little cones, similar to the pine cone, in the fall! And because of their smaller size, these cones are often used for crafts and wreaths.

The Norway Spruce is another massive softwood tree. It grows to about 50 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Also, this tree is a rapid grower and can reach heights of 40 to 50 feet in 3 to 4 years. And if you want to block the snow from blowing on your drive way, plant a few of these about 10 feet apart.

The Norway Spruce is recommended for zones 2 through 5. It’s also very disease and insect resistant, and will adapt to a variety of soils. Once your Norway Spruce starts to take off, it will drop spruce cones! The spruce cones, which are similar to pine cones, are 3 to 6 inches long, and oval shaped – ideal for crafting and more.

Spread the Knowledge

Now that you’ve learned the differences between wood types, about the qualities of conifer trees and more, you can spread the word. Best of all, you can order a few trees of your own!

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