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Common name Sugar maple Soft maple Red Alder Basswood Yellow poplar American beech Sycamore. Genus/species Acer saccharum Acer rubrum / saccharinum Alnus rubra Tilia americana Liriodendron tulipifera Fagus grandifolia Platanus occidentalis. FW1035 Lab Lecture 3.

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diffuse porous hardwoods
Common name

Sugar maple

Soft maple

Red Alder


Yellow poplar

American beech



Acer saccharum

Acer rubrum / saccharinum

Alnus rubra

Tilia americana

Liriodendron tulipifera

Fagus grandifolia

Platanus occidentalis


Lab Lecture 3

Diffuse Porous Hardwoods


Aceraceae (Sapindaceae)

Aceraceae (Sapindaceae)






sugar hard maple acer saccharum aceraceae sapindaceae
Sugar (Hard) Maple - Acer saccharum Aceraceae (Sapindaceae)
  • Black maple (Acer nigrum), a closely related species, is also sold as “hard maple”. The wood of the two species is indistinguishable.

Prefers cool, moist climates

Common throughout Northeastern US and Southwest Canada

sugar maple acer saccharum
Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum

Bird’s eye maple

Mmmm…maple syrup

sugar maple acer saccharum4
Sugar Maple - Acer saccharum

ID Characteristics:

  • Higher density (SG = 0.63)
  • Color: creamy white to light red-brown, lustrous with a dense latewood band of darker brown
  • Pores: small, diameter of largest about the same as width of widest rays
  • Longitudinal parenchyma: none obvious
  • Rays: easily visible on the cross section, two apparent widths (uniseriate and 7-8 seriate). Ray ends usually obvious.
  • Often confused with soft maple and birch

Uses: furniture, flooring, pallets and packaging

Figure: bird’s eye figured wood costs ~3 times more than non-figured

Soft MapleAcer rubrum / saccharinum- Red Maple, Acer rubrum - Silver maple, Acer saccharinum Aceraceae (Sapindaceae)

Red Maple

Silver Maple

soft maple acer rubrum saccharinum
Soft Maple - Acer rubrum / saccharinum

Red Maple

Silver Maple

The leaves are different, but the woods are indistinguishable.

soft maple
Soft Maple
  • ID features:
    • Moderate density (SG=0.54)
    • Color: creamy white to reddish brown, commonly with grayish cast or streaks, dense latewood band not as apparent as in hard maple
    • Pores: small, with largest as wide as or slightly wider than the widest rays on the cross section
    • Longitudinal parenchyma: none obvious
    • Rays: variable in width (1-5 seriate). Ray ends are usually less obvious than with hard/sugar maple.
    • Often confused with hard maple and birch

Uses: furniture, pulp and paper, pallets and packaging

red alder alnus rubra betulaceae
Red Alder - Alnus rubra (Betulaceae)

Basis for local furniture and cabinetry industries on the West Coast.

Favored by disturbance. Capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen.

Lowland species. Common along the Pacific Northwest coast. Ranges from northern California to southeastern Alaska.

red alder alnus rubra betulaceae9
Red Alder - Alnus rubra (Betulaceae)
  • Low to moderate density (SG=0.41)
  • Pink-brown to brown (usually with a reddish tinge). White when freshly cut.
  • Pores: very small, difficult to see (even with a hand lens)
  • Longitudinal parenchyma: none obvious
  • Rays: mostly uniseriate with occasional wide aggregate rays
  • Miscellaneous: growth rings are indistinct
  • Often confused with soft maple (for color only, look for the aggregate rays)
  • Uses:
    • furniture and cabinetry, plaques
basswood tilia americana tiliaceae
Basswood - Tilia americana (Tiliaceae)

Grows in eastern and central hardwood woodlands.

basswood tilia americana tiliaceae11
Basswood - Tilia americana (Tiliaceae)

Preferred for wood carving and burning

basswood tilia americana tiliaceae12
Basswood - Tilia americana (Tiliaceae)

(Also called American basswood, linden, and lime-tree)

  • Low to moderate density (SG=0.37)
    • density is very even; cuts easily and easy to carve
  • Color: creamy white to light brown
  • Pores: small and indistinct
  • Longitudinal parenchyma: marginal is usually reasonably distinct, but not as obvious as in yellow poplar
  • Rays: distinct with hand lens - wide and evenly spaced (1-6 seriate) (low volume!). Noded.
  • Miscellaneous: faint “musty” odor
  • Often confused with Populus spp.
  • Uses: carvings, concealed furniture parts, pallets and packaging

~ 6% ray volume

yellow poplar liriodendron tulipifera magnoliaceae
Yellow-poplar - Liriodendron tulipifera Magnoliaceae

Grows throughout the eastern US.

High commercial value as a substitute for softwoods.

yellow poplar liriodendron tulipifera magnoliaceae15
Yellow-poplar - Liriodendron tulipifera Magnoliaceae
  • Many common names: American tulipwood, canary wood, canoe wood, poplar, whitewood
  • Moderate density (SG=0.42)
  • Uses:
    • hidden furniture parts
    • musical instruments (Appalachian)
    • structural composite lumbers
    • export (furniture)
yellow poplar continued
Yellow poplar (continued)
  • Color: sapwood is creamy white; heartwood green, or yellow or tan with greenish cast
    • green fades to brown on exposure to light
  • Pores: small and indistinct
  • Longitudinal parenchyma: marginal; very obvious, even with naked eye
  • Rays: distinct on cross section (1-5 seriate) and noded
  • Miscellaneous : green color is very obvious - make a fresh cut!
  • Sapwood may be confused with Populus spp. (marginal parenchyma) or basswood (rays differentiate)
american beech fagus grandifolia fagaceae
American beech - Fagus grandifolia Fagaceae

Can reach 300-400 years of age. Used for turning, steam bending, and a variety of household applications.

american beech fagus grandifolia fagaceae18
American beech - Fagus grandifolia Fagaceae
  • High density (SG=0.64)
  • Color: light pink to reddish-brown
    • last formed latewood is a darker reddish-brown
  • Pores: small and indistinct
  • Longitudinal parenchyma: none obvious
  • Rays: 2 widths(1-5 seriate and 15-20 seriate)
    • noded (apparent with wide rays)
    • ray ends are large, dark colored and obvious
  • Most often confused with sycamore and hard maple
american beech continued
American beech (continued)
  • Uses: Fagus sylvatica is a very important hardwood species in Europe.
    • commonly used in furniture
    • cabinetry
    • toys
    • lots of miscellaneous uses
  • Here:
    • flooring
    • kitchen utensils (e.g. wooden spoons)
    • toys (blocks)
    • furniture
    • cabinetry
sycamore platanus occidentalis platanaceae
Sycamore - Platanus occidentalis Platanaceae

Nice bark!

Commonly planted as a shade tree.

sycamore platanus occidentalis platanaceae21
Sycamore - Platanus occidentalis Platanaceae
  • Moderate density (SG=0.49)
  • Color: light brown, often with reddish cast, denser band in late latewood (lighter brown to cream)
  • Pores: small and indistinct
  • Longitudinal parenchyma: none obvious
  • Rays:
    • wide, numerous, easily visible and obvious
    • up to 14-seriate
    • ray ends are large and closely spaced
  • Miscellaneous; ray fleck is often conspicuous
  • Most often confused with beech
  • Uses: concealed furniture parts, boxes and crates, drawer sides – under-appreciated furniture wood