Wood & Facts

I have more than 21 years of experience working with wood and have worked more than 350 different species of wood. I normally keep more than 125 species in stock.

I have studied hundreds of woodworking magazine articles and more than 230 books on woodworking by as many as 190 authors. In addition I have studied numerous books and magazine articles on art, business, marketing, advertising and webmastering. I consult with both individuals and companies {World Tree Technologies, Impact Group New York, & B. K. Brown Designs} on the best wood, procedures and finishing techniques to use in the production of their wooden projects or products and how to advertise their products.

Facts About Wood & Trees

Johnny W. Morlan

Over the years, I have complied some facts on wood and trees. Here are a few that I will share with you. Some are pretty astounding.

* The most recently discovered tree specie, is the Wollemi Pine, {Wollemia nobilis}. It was discovered in August 1994, in Wollemi National Park, Australia. The total count of the mature trees are only around 40.

* The lightest and softest wood in the world is Balsa. It's average specific gravity averages .16.

* The heaviest and the hardest wood in the world is Snakewood. It's specific gravity averages 1.30.

* Not all species of wood floats in water. In order to sink in water the specific gravity of the wood, has to be 1.00 or more. These 17 sink, African Blackwood, African Ebony, Black Ironwood, Brazilwood, CocoBolo, East Indian Satinwood, Ekki, Greenheart, IPE, Kingwood, Lignum Vitae, Macassar Ebony, Marblewood, Satine {Bloodwood}, Snakewood, Sucupira and White Topped Box.

* Bamboo, although often tree like, is actually not a species of tree.

* The whitest wood in the world is Holly.

* The blackest wood in the world is Gabon Ebony.

* Not all wood that comes from hardwood {flowering} broadleaf trees is hard and wood that comes from softwood {conifers} cone-bearing trees is soft. There are exceptions to this. For instance Balsa and Basswood are hardwoods even though they are extremely soft. The southern pines are softwoods but are moderately hard and much harder than Balsa or Basswood.

* The name Ironwood is actually a slang term given to the hardest wood of an area, region or country. There are over 80 species of wood in the world, referred to or having the word Ironwood in them.

* The world's tallest living Christmas tree {275 foot}, is in the Styx Valley, a tract of ancient forest in Tasmania, Australia.

* The only species of wood that can be used for holding liquids {other than acids} is White Oak. This is because the pores are filled with tyloses. This substance does not allow liquids to penetrate it.

* Lignin is the substance found in wood that helps determine how hard the wood will be. The more Lignin present, the harder the wood and vice versa, the less present, the softer the wood.

* Up until a few years ago, the world's oldest living tree, a Bristlecone Pine, named the Methuselah was in California. It is approximately 4,600 years old. Now there may be at least two trees that are older.

With John White's refined measurement techniques of today, The Lime tree in the Silkwood at Westonbirt Arboretum (Near Tetbury, Gloucester, U.K.) is probably around 6000 years old.

The Fortingall Yew Tree in Glen Lyon, Perthshire, Scotland, might be as much as 9000 years old. The usual way of calculating a trees age by counting the annual rings in the trunk or by carbon dating, are not accurate when it comes to Yews because a Yews trunk tends to hollow with age, while it continues to grow by rooting its branches and wrapping them around itself. There is even documentation of the formation of aerial roots growing inside the hollow trunk. Another reason are Yews have been known to stop growing for long periods of time, {documented 325 years}, thus having no growth rings for that period.

* The trees with the largest leaves are Teak. The leaves can be 10 inches - 20 inches long and 7 inches - 14 inches wide.

* The world's tallest living standing tree, a Redwood, is in Humboldt State Redwood Park California. It is 368 feet {almost 37 stories} tall.

* In 1872, William Ferguson, reported a fallen Eucalyptus regnans that was 18 feet in diameter and 435 feet tall thus making it the tallest (or longest) dead tree ever found.

* The world's widest tree is the Santa Maria del Tule, an Ahuehuete Cypress, in Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico. The town is named after the tree. It is approximately 178 foot in circumference or approximately 56 foot 8 inches wide. It is over 2000 years old.

* The world's slowest growing tree is a White Cedar located in Canada. After 155 years, it grew to a height of 4 inches and weighed only 6/10th of an ounce. The tree can be found on a cliffside in the Canadian Great Lakes area.

* The world's largest forest is in northern Russia. It is located between 55 degrees North Latitude and the Arctic Circle {Siberia}. It is a coniferous forest. It covers a total area of 2.7 billion acres.

* The world's fastest growing tree is the Empress tree. This tree can grow up to 20 feet the first year and some have been documented growing 12 inches in 21 days!

* The tree with the world's largest canopy/crown {spread of its branches}, is the great Banyan tree in the Indian Botanical Garden, Calcutta, India. It has over 1,700 prop supporting roots and dates back to 1787. The canopy/crown has a circumference of 1,350 foot, approximately 430 foot wide, almost 1 1/2 football fields.

* The world's largest living tree, and this is because of its volume is the General Sherman Giant Sequoia, located in Sequoia National Park, in California. It weighs a little over 2.7 million pounds. Its largest branch is 6 foot 9 1/2 inches in diameter. It is estimated that it contains 600,000 board foot of lumber. Its champion tree score is 1321 points.

A trees score is determined by adding 3 measurements together, circumference in inches, measured at 4.5 feet above ground level {1 point for each inch}, height in feet {1 point for each foot in height}, and one-fourth of the crown spread. Add together the widest crown spread {nearest foot}, and the narrowest crown spread {nearest foot}, then divide by two to get the average ground spread, then divide by 4.

* The town of Flagstaff Arizona was named when On July 4th 1876; lumberjacks stripped the limbs from the tallest Ponderosa Pine and then flew the American flag from it.

* The tree that has traveled the farthest distance to be transplanted to date, is a London Plane Tree, nicknamed Plane Ace. It was moved from Belgium and was replanted in the United Kingdom in January 2001. At the time, it was approximately 60 years old and almost 58 foot tall.

* The tallest tree to date to be transplanted, is the 30 year old, Betula Pendula {Silver Birch), which was moved from William Garfit's nursery in Cambridge and was replanted at a lifestyle housing development in the south London suburb of Deptford. At the time, it was almost 64 foot tall.

* The Copaiba Langsdorfii, a tree that grows in the Amazon, has sap that is so much like diesel fuel, that it can be used as fuel for diesel engines.

* If you burn Ceylon Satinwood, the fumes will put humans to sleep and kill canaries.

* Purpleheart wood can be made to become a darker shade of purple in two ways. One by placing it in direct sunlight, and this will only darken the color superficially. It can be sanded off very easily. Two by heating it, at say 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 - 12 minutes. This will darken the color, not only on the surface but also throughout the whole piece.

* A Balsa tree will start rotting after only 7 years, if not cut.

* For every 10,000 acorns that an Oak tree produces, only one will become a tree!

* More than 23,000 different species of trees can be found on Earth.

*The world's most massive tree trunk size ever recorded was the Lindsey Creek Coast Redwood tree in California. It was blown down in a storm in 1905. It had a total trunk volume of 90,000 cubic foot and a total mass weight of 3,248 tons, a little short of 6.5 million pounds.

* Since the early 1940's, the United States has been planting more trees than it harvests and today, has far more trees than in the 1920's.

* The wood species that has the most offensive odor {like rotten cabbage} after it is worked in any way, is Essia.

* Some African Baobab trees can store more than 25,000 gallons {in weight, approximately 100 tons} of water in their trunks. Also, some with age have become hollow and have been used as homes. One was even used as a bus stop and could shelter up to 30 people.

* Empress trees produce 3 to 4 times more oxygen than any other known tree.

* Cork trees are stripped of their bark every 10 years or so and will continue to grow for 150 years or more.

* The world's sweetest tree is native to West Africa. It is the Serendipity Berry. It is 3000 times sweeter than sucrose.

* Rubber trees on the average yield about 4-5 pounds of rubber per year.

* The softest American wood is the Corkbark. It's specific gravity averages .28. It is native to Arizona and New Mexico.

* The hardest American wood is Black Ironwood. It's specific gravity averages 1.04. It is native to southern Florida.

* The world's shortest specie of tree is the Weeping Mulberry. Their height rarely exceeds 4 feet.

* There are 21 names of woods mentioned in the Bible.

* The Longleaf Pine, native to the southern part of the United States, does not have heartwood until it is 18 or so years old.

* It is often said, that Pink Ivorywood is rarer than diamonds.

Acknowledgements & References

Know Your Woods, Albert J. Constantine, Jr.
Revised By Harry J. Hobbs

World Woods In Color, William A. Lincoln

Reader's Digest Family Guide To Nature,
Answers To 1001 Questions

Back to Tips & Techniques