[ This Section may require several minutes to download]
Please CLICK on Underlined Categories to view:
[ to search for Subject Matter, depress Ctrl/F ]:
Forests occur in some parts at least on all continents. Although knowledge concerning the exact nature and distribution of these forests is still incomplete, it is possible to estimate the amount of forest land in the world in 2000 as about six billion acres, or 18 percent of the earth’s surface. This area is progressively decreasing as the human population soars. These forests are distributed on the different continents as 25% in Asia, 24% in South America, 18% in North America, 8 percent in Africa, 9% in Europe and only 3% in Australia and Oceania. Forests were, of course, originally much more abundant than they are at the present time.
The softwoods or conifers comprise 34 percent of the total forest area occurring in pure stands or mixed with hardwoods. They are especially abundant in the colder climates, about 90% occurring in the north temperate zone. When they are found in warmer regions, conifers are restricted to the higher altitudes unless they have been imported as exotic species (e.g., Monterrey Pine). For hardwoods a distinction is usually made between temperate and tropical species. The former occur 16% and the latter 35% of the total forest area. As in the case of conifers, most of the temperate hardwoods (ca. 85%) are located in the north temperate zone. It is interesting that three-quarters of the world’s population lives in this area and consumes nearly 90% of all the wood used. It is of great economic importance that both softwoods necessary for general construction and hardwoods have been readily available throughout this area. As a result of the depletion of native forests, attention has been turned to the tropical forests, which continue to be decimated by clear cutting.
The forests of North America occupied about 25 percent of the land area by the beginning of the 21st Century. Conifers comprised about 72 percent, temperate hardwoods about 20 percent and tropical hardwoods about 8 percent of the forests. The northern portion of North America (Alaska, Canada and Newfoundland) is primarily coniferous, with 90 percent of the softwoods and 7 percent of temperature hardwoods. The United States had about 62 percent conifers and 38 percent temperate hardwoods. Mexico had about 47 percent conifers, 34 percent temperate hardwoods and 19 percent tropical hardwoods. In Central America tropical hardwoods accounted for 75 percent and conifers 25 percent of the forests. The West Indies had an even higher percentage of tropical hardwoods (ca. 85 percent), with the remainder in conifers. The forest area present by the 21st Century was only about half that of the original forests that existed at the time of the first European settlements that began in the 16th Century.
Forests in North America are found in about six well-defined areas: (1) northern coniferous forest, (2) eastern deciduous forest, (3) southeastern coniferous forest, (4) Rocky Mountain forests, (5) Pacific Coast forests and (6) tropical and subtropical forests.
This is a predominantly evergreen forest that extends across the continent from Newfoundland and Labrador to the lower Hudson Bay region and Alaska, south of the treeless arctic tundra. The principal trees are white and black spruce, balsam fir and larch, with some paper birch, aspen and balsam poplar. From Nova Scotia and northern new England to Minnesota and southward along the summits of the Appalachians, there is a transitional region between the coniferous forest and the eastern deciduous forest, with species of both these areas mixed. The prominent trees of this Northern Hardwood Region, include white pine, red spruce, white cedar, beech, sugar maple, hemlock, yellow birch and some red pine and jack pine.
This is one of the oldest forests on the North American continent that covers most of the eastern and central portions of the United States. It flourishes in the lower Ohio valley and on the slopes of the southern Appalachians, and it extends as far north as Ontario and southern Quebec. Prominent trees are oaks, hickories, tulip, chestnut, black walnut, ash, basswood and formerly American elm. At the northern limits the beech and maple become prominent mixed with different conifers. Toward its southern and southwestern limits the oaks and hickories occur with many of the pines that are typically found in the southeastern coniferous forest. Westward the deciduous forest gradually is confined to the river valleys of the prairie region.
This forest occurs along the sandy Atlantic coastal plain from Texas to Virginia. Different species of pines, mainly shortleaf, longleaf, loblolly and slash pines, occur on the uplands; in lower ground there occurs the tupelo, live oak, red gum and magnolia. Southern white cedar and cypress are found in swamps.
This forest consists mainly of coniferous species. The area extends from northern British Columbia southward across the United States and Mexico and on into Central America. There are many differences in the nature of the forest as influenced by latitude and altitude. Western yellow pine is the most typical species. Others include lodgepole pine, white fir, Douglas fir, and western larch. Engelmann spruce and alpine fir are at the higher elevations. In northern Idaho and Montana a forest occurs that is similar to some of those found on the Pacific Coast, with western red cedar, western hemlock and western white pine being the main species.
There are several distinct forest areas located within the Pacific Coast region. Along the coast from Alaska south to Washington, Sitka spruce is the main species. In southern British Columbia, the Puget Sound region and eastern Oregon and Washington as far west as the summits of the Cascade Range there is situated one of the most magnificent conifer forests in the world. It can hardly be surpassed in its density and the size of the trees, which reach heights of 200-250 ft. and diameters of 8-15 ft. Mild winters are created by the nearness of the Pacific Ocean and there is a very high precipitation that can exceed 100 in. per year. Douglas fir is the dominant species and associated with it are western hemlock, western cedar, Sitka spruce and several species of fir.
Beginning in southwestern Oregon and extending past the San Francisco Bay area the forests along the Coast Range are dominated by redwoods. Much of the original redwood forest had been cut by the end of the 20th Century and farmland was substituted.
East of the Cascade Range the forests merge with those of the Rocky Mountains. The main trees are western yellow pine, western larch, Douglas fir, lodgepole pine and some western white pine, Engelmann spruce and alpine fir. This forest also extends southward along the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. There western yellow pine, sugar pine, incense cedar, Douglas fir and white fir are common with red fir at the higher elevations. The Big Trees are found in isolated stands along the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
Although subtropical conditions are found in south Florida, none of the trees are of commercial importance. The true tropical forests begin in the lowlands of Mexico (south of El Mante in the east and Mazatlán in the west), on the eastern slopes of Central America and in the West Indies. Most of the original forest in the latter two areas has been destroyed as a result of migratory agriculture and has been replaced by the dense, almost impenetrable tropical jungle. The more important tropical species of North America will be discussed along with those of South America.
There are more than 500 species of temperate woody plants in North America, with about 100 being of commercial importance. The principal species are discussed as follows:
These trees all have a fragrant, light, soft wood that is even grained and decay resistant. The wood is used mainly in millwork and in the manufacture of woodenware, instruments, caskets, boats and various appliances. Commercial cedar includes seven different species.
Port Orford Cedar, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, is found in Oregon and California. It is the hardest of all the cedars and has some exceptionally good technical properties. It yields a strong, durable, heavy, stiff timber that takes a good polish. The wood is used for furniture, boats, millwork, matches, floors, interior finish and posts.
Alaska Cedar, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis, occurs from Alaska to Oregon along the Pacific Coast. The wood is light, stiff, hard and strong and is easy to work and durable. It is used for boats, shingles, fences and interior finish.
Southern White Cedar, Chamaecyparis thyoides, is a smaller tree found in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. The wood is useful for boats, poles, shingles, ties, posts and cooperage. During colonial times it was used to build single-story houses.
Incense Cedar, Libocedrus decurrens, of California, western Nevada and Oregon has a close-grained reddish wood of high value. It is used in building, for posts and piling and to a great extent for lead pencils.
Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, is one of the most common trees of the eastern United States. The wood is very durable and is particularly resistant to weathering. It is used primarily for fence posts, poles, crosstrees and railroad ties. The sapwood is white and the heartwood is rich red and very fragrant due to the presence of an essential oil. The wood is soft with an even, fine grain; and it can be whittled easily. Panels, veneers chests and interior finish are made from eastern red cedar.
Northern White Cedar or Arbor Vitae, Thuja occidentalis, is a common tree in New England and the Great lakes area and adjacent Canada It is soft and easily worked and has been used mainly for canoe and boat building, woodenware, shingles, fence posts, railroad ties, poles, tanks and silos.
Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata, occurs in the northern Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwestern United States. It is the largest of the cedars that may reach a height of 150 ft. and a girth of 30 ft. The brownish-red, close, even-grained wood is soft but very durable. Most of this wood has been used for shingles. Other uses include poles, fences, cabinetwork, interior finish and cooperage. The coastal Amerindians used this species for their totem poles and war canoes, and also fabricated ropes and textiles from the bast fibers of the inner bark.
The Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, is a tree of the swamps along the Atlantic Coast from Delaware to Texas and northeastern Mexico, and in the lower Mississippi valley. It is one of the strongest and heaviest of the softwoods. It may reach a height of 80-140 ft. and a girth of 5-12 ft. The “cypress knees” are a typical feature, which are conical outgrowths from the roots for the purpose of aeration. The tree is deciduous and the wood is a rich red color with a distinct grain. It is soft and coarse and is easy to work with. It has been used primarily in millwork for cabinet and interior finishes. It is also used for shingles, ties, posts, tanks, cisterns and other structures that are prone to decay, because the wood is very durable. Other products that have been manufactured from bald cypress are boats, cooperage and boxes.
Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga taxifolia, is one of the most economically valuable woods in North America. The tree covers a wide range in northwestern United States and western Canada. It attains its best development on the Pacific Coast from central California to British Columbia. The trees may reach a height of 200 ft. and a diameter at the base of 8-10 ft. The lowest branches are high on the trunk so that the trees have been used frequently for masts, flagpoles and spars. The size of the trunk also makes possible timbers of many lengths and sizes. The wood is resinous with a close, even, well-marked grain, and is of medium weight, strength, stiffness and toughness. It is very durable and, when well seasoned, will not warp. Much Douglas fir is used in heavy construction. Other uses include railroad ties, paving blocks, piles, veneers, floors and millwork. The bark has been processed for use as a substitute for cork in making adhesives, plastics and explosives. It also possesses insecticidal properties.
True firs are of comparatively little economic importance. The wood is very light, soft and brittle and has been used mainly in the manufacture of crates and boxes. Fir is also used as a source of pulpwood and in millwork. The most important species are the balsam fir, Abies balsamea, of the northern coniferous forest and four western species, the lowland white fir, A. grandis, , the red fir, A. magnifica, the noble fir, A. procera and the white fir, A. concolor. The last two species when young are of commercial importance as Christmas trees. Because of their dense stands in portions of the American western mountains, they are extremely valuable as watershed species.
Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, is one of the most characteristic trees of the northeastern transition forest. It furnishes an inexpensive coarse lumber that is used primarily for framing timbers, sheathing, scantling, laths, rafters and other types of crude construction.
Western Hemlocks, Tsuga heterophylla & T. mertensiana, are larger trees that have a superior wood, which is heavier, stronger, stiffer and more adapted to heavy construction. Both species are high in tannin. These species are important pulpwood sources in the Pacific Northwest.
Eastern Larch or Tamarack, Larix laricina, and Western Larch, L. occidentalis, are the larch wood of commerce. The first species is found in the northeastern United States and across Canada, while the latter species is a larger tree that grows mainly in Idaho, Montana and Washington. Larch is very heavy, strong and tough softwood and is used mainly in furnishing heavy timbers for general building construction. Because larch is very durable it has been used for posts, poles, fences, railroad ties and paving blocks. The naturally curving lower parts of the trunk furnish ideal material for boat “Knees,” ribs and other forms of ship timber (Hill 1952). Larch is also used to manufacture planning mill products, boxes and tanks.
Pines have always been of great importance commercially, and they constitute about half of the total lumber supply. The wood is obtained from different species that belong either to the soft pine or the hard pine category. In North America there are eight species of especial value. The soft or white pines have a straight-grained soft wood of mellow and uniform consistency that is relatively free of resin and is easy to work. It is used for rough carpentry, cooperage, cabinetwork, toys, boxes and crates. The hard or yellow pines have a resinous, heavy, strong, hard and durable wood that finds great use in buildings, bridges, ships and other types of heavy construction. Because it is very durable, yellow pine is desirable for stairs, floors, planks and beams.
Northern White Pine, Pinus strobus, is one of the most valuable timber trees. It was formerly used more than any other species, both for domestic consumption and for the export trade from America to Europe. By the 21st Century so much of the wood had been cut that it fell into sixth place in importance. The tree is found in the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada, and along the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia. Considerable stands still exist in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and a small area of northwestern Illinois. It is a conspicuous member of the forest flora in this region and trees may attain a height of 100-200 ft. and a diameter of 3-9 ft. The wood is very light and easy to work as it is one of the softest of timbers. However, it is very durable. Houses that had been constructed of white pine in colonial days remain in good condition. The sapwood is white and the heartwood a pinkish brown, with a fine, even grain and lustrous surface. White pine has been used for building structures, doors, windows sashes, cabinetwork, boxes, and matches. Other species with similar wood and uses that have been called white pine in the lumber trade are Western White Pine, Pinus monticola, Sugar Pine, P. lambertiana, one very large and valuable timber tree of the West, and Lodgepole Pine, P. contorta.
Yellow pines are a heterogeneous group that is often classed together even though each species has a distinctive wood. Eastern species are very fast growers. The southern yellow or Longleaf Pine, Pinus australis, is one of the two most important timber trees of the United States. It occurs in the southeastern states from North Carolina to Texas. The wood has a fine, smooth, compact grain and is the heaviest, hardest, strongest, stiffest and toughest of the softwoods. It is especially durable and able to bear great weights. Therefore, it main use is for beams, joists and other timbers for heavy construction, and for wharves, ships, bridges and railroad ties. Some yellow pine is used for boxes and millwork. The wood is very resinous and the tree is the main source of the naval-stores industry. It is also an important pulpwood. Associated with the yellow pine in the southern forests and often classified with it are the Shortleaf Pine, Pinus echinata, the Slash Pine, P. caribaea, and the Loblolly Pine, P. taeda.
Other important hard pines are the Western Yellow Pine, Pinus ponderosa, and Red Pine or Norway Pine, P. resinosa, of the Eastern United States. Red pine is of considerable economic importance in the Christmas Tree trade, the trees being grown in some quantity on farmland.
Coastal Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, (Photos) is restricted to the Pacific Coast area of central and northern California and southwestern Oregon. It is one of the tallest trees in the world that can reach a height of 200-300 ft. and a diameter of 8-122 ft. Only one other species, the Mountain Sequoia, Sequoia gigantean, (Photos) can exceed these dimensions and also attains a greater age estimated at 3,600 years. The wood of the Mountain Sequoia has little commercial value and has consequently escaped decimation by logging practices. However, Coastal Redwood has been widely exploited in the 20th Century and only the efforts of conservationists have made possible the preservation of a few stands of primeval forest.
The wood of Coastal Redwood is fine and straight-grained, strong, light and very soft. The sapwood is pale while the heartwood has a rich dull red color. The cinnamon-brown bark, often one foot thick, is striking. Redwood does not warp or shrink readily and is very durable, especially after seasoning. It has been used for general construction, shingles, siding, tanks, coffins, silos, posts, water pipes, ties, furniture, cabinetwork and interior finish. The fibrous bark ahs been used as an insulating and stuffing material, and it yields a textile fiber for use with wool. The fine bark dust is used as a soil conditioner.
Several species of spruce have a light, soft, compact, straight-grained wood that is stiff, strong, and easy to work and relatively free of resin. Spruce has increased in importance as white pine has become less available. The main uses are for pulpwood, light construction, boxes, millwork, and cooperage and as Christmas trees. The wood is resonant and so is used for making the sounding boards of pianos and the bodies of violins and other instruments. The main species is the White Spruce, Picea glauca, one of the most characteristic trees of the great coniferous forest that extends from the northeastern United States to Labrador and across the continent to Alaska. Other eastern species are the Red Spruce, Picea rubens, and the Black Spruce, Picea mariana, both of which have a more restricted range.
The most important spruce species of Western North America is the Sitka Spruce or Tideland Spruce, Picea sitchensis. This large tree may attain a height of 200-300 ft. It occurs along the coast from Alaska to northern California. Sitka spruce has found use in the manufacture of oars, boats and other wood products that require a light, strong and elastic wood. It was once widely used in airplane construction. Engelmann Spruce, Picea engelmannii, occurs in the Rocky Mountain and Cascade Range region from Arizona and New Mexico to Canada, and has had limited economic importance.
This is a strong, tough, elastic, stiff, hard and lightweight wood. It is light reddish brown, easy to split and difficult to nail. It often bears beautiful figures and may be highly polished. Other uses of ash wood are the manufacture of oars, bats, handles, tennis rackets, cues, rods, clothespins, toys, baskets and barrels. It may also be used for building carriages, boats, farm implements, furniture, cooperage and interior finish. The most widely used species is White Ash, Fraxinus americana, of the eastern deciduous forest in North America. Other prominent species are the Red Ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, and a variety the Green Ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica var. lanceoleata; the Blue Ash, Fraxinus quadrangulata; the Black Ash, Fraxinus nigra, and the Oregon Ash, Fraxinus oregona.
Also called Linden, Tilia americana, occurs mainly in the eastern deciduous forest of North America. The tree may reach a height of 80 ft. The wood is light colored and straight grained with a smooth uniform texture. It is light, soft and weak and not very tough. However, because of its color, even grain and ease of working it is widely used. It has been used to manufacture boxes and crates, millwork, woodenware, furniture, trunks, Venetian blinds, picture frames, carriage bodies, beehives, plywood, cooperage, pulp, charcoal and excelsior.
The Northern Beech, Fagus grandifloia, is typically found in the northeastern transition forest of North America. The wood is fine-grained in pinkish brown in color. It is moderately strong, hard and heavy and has a wide range of uses. Beech has been used extensively to make boxes and crates because it does not impart any taste or odor. Flooring, interior finish, fixtures and furniture, tool handles, woodenware, clothespins, wagon stock, shoe lasts and ties are among the other products. The wood is also used for fuel, charcoal and wood-distillation.
This is a heavy, hard, strong and tough wood with a fine wavy grain that is often beautifully figured and able to take a high polish. It is frequently stained and finished to imitate mahogany or cherry. The Yellow Birch, Betula lutea, that ranges from the Lake States to New England and Georgia, and the Black Birch, Betula lenta, which has a more restricted range, furnishes most of the wood used in the manufacture of doors, furniture, window frames, floors and other forms of millwork. Other articles include clothespins, handles, shoe pegs and lasts, wheel hubs, woodenware, boxes baskets, dowels, yokes, veneers and spools.
White Birch or Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera, occurs further north on the continent of North America. The wood is very strong and elastic with a fine uniform texture. It is used mainly for plywood, spools, toothpicks, boxes, handles, dowels, bobbins and shoe lasts and pegs and in turnery. Especially the Amerindians have used the bark that peels off in typical layers to make canoes and fancy articles. Birch is also used for fuel and distillation.
Wild Black Cherry, Prunus serotina, is the only one of several species in the same genus where the wood has commercial value. The tree occurs in the deciduous forests from Ontario to Florida and from the Dakotas to Texas. It is particularly abundant in the southern Appalachians. The wood has a fine, straight and close grain, and it is hard. The color varies from light to dark red depending on age, and it is often stained before use. The beautiful grain and color and the ease with which it can be worked make this cherry especially desirable for furniture, interior finishes and cabinetwork. The supply had become greatly reduced by the end of the 20th Century. Other uses have been the stands for scientific instruments, printer’s supplies, and turnery. Medicinal properties are in the bark, and the ripe fruits are at times used to flavor liqueurs.
The American Chestnut, Castanea dentata, was one of the most important timber trees of the eastern United States. However, the accidental importation of chestnut blight disease from Europe practically eradicated the tree. Before the disease epidemic American Chestnut was very abundant and conspicuous because of its large size in the deciduous forests from Maine to Tennessee. It was especially plentiful in the southern Applachians. The wood was brown, soft and open grained and very durable and easy to work. It was used for millwork, caskets, furniture, musical instruments, woodenware, boxes, veneers and plywood cores. Its high durability made it excellent for poles, posts, piling, ties, fence rails, shingles and cooperage. It was also a source of pulpwood and a tanning material. The nuts were superior in quality to the European Chestnut. The tree continues to survive from suckers that arise from the roots, but they never reach a reproductive age.
Several elm species, especially the Rock Elm, Ulmus thomasi, and the ornamental White Elm, Ulmus americana, yielded valuable wood with a beautiful grain. The wood of the Rock Elm is strong, tough, hard, elastic, heavy, pliable and durable. It was the most important source of hubs, spokes, fellies and wheel rims. It was also used for agricultural implements and tool handles, butcher blocks, veneers and cooperage and in the manufacture of furniture, musical instruments, woodenware and baskets. The White Elm has a softer, lighter and weaker wood that was nevertheless tough and fibrous and had been used for the same purposes. Dutch Elm Disease had by the end of the 20th Century eliminated over 98 percent of the White Elms. The tree survives only in small, mostly far northern pockets where there is some protection from the vectors of both a virus and the bacterium.
Hickory trees are found in the eastern deciduous forest from Ontario to Minnesota, Florida and Mexico. The wood of all species is used to some extent, but the most important sources are the Shagbark Hickory, Carya ovata, the Mockernut, Carya tomentosa, and the Pignut, Carya glabra. The wood is one of the toughest, hardest, heaviest and strongest and it is used where both strength and the ability to withstand shocks are required. It is a coarse straight-grained wood. The sapwood is preferred to the heartwood. Hickory has been used for spokes, fellics, axles and other parts of wagons, and also for ax, pick and hammer handles, baseball bats, agricultural implements, shafts of golf clubs, pump rods and cooperage. It is the standard for fuel wood and for smoking meat.
Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is another tree of the eastern deciduous forest of North America. The wood is very heavy, strong, hard, durable and elastic. It has a coarse, open, crooked, compact grain and a smooth, satiny surface. It has been used mainly for insulator pins and brackets. It was also commonly used for tree nails, boat ribs, fence posts, ties, sills, wagon hubs and mine timbers. The wood is of more importance in Europe where it has been used for furniture and shipbuilding.
Honey Locust, Gleditsia triacanthos, has similar properties and uses. The leaflets are much smaller than the Black Locust and the flowers are aromatic. This species has long thick seedpods.
Maples constitute some of the most important woods in North America. The principal source of the commercial wood known as Hard Maple is the Rock Maple or Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum. This tree is a conspicuous species of the eastern deciduous and northeastern transition forests. It ranges from southeastern Canada to Georgia. Two other easier species, the Silver Maple, Acer saccharinum, and the Red Maple, Acer rubrum, and the Oregon Maple, Acer macrophyllum, and the Oregon Maple, Acer macrophyllum that occurs in Washington and Oregon, furnish soft maple wood that is of lesser importance.
Hard maple wood is tough, heavy, compact, strong and very hard. It is light brown in color with dense even grains and a fine texture. It may be finely polished and is often beautifully grained and figured, as in the case of bird’s eye maple and curly maple. These latter traits make it one of the best woods for furniture, veneers, flooring, interior finish and bowling alleys. It is also used for violins and other musical instruments, shoe lasts, rulers, tool handles, inlays, panels, keels of vessels, pianos, bowls, cooperage, charcoal, fuel and wood distillation products. The sap of the hard maples yields maple syrup and maple sugar.
Oak has been regarded as the most important of all hardwoods. The timber has great commercial value, but the tree is also the largest and finest of the hardwood forests. The wood is tough, hard, resilient, durable and elastic. Its strength and ability to resist heavy strains make it invaluable in shipbuilding and other types of heavy construction. It also polishes easily and is unmatched for decorative work. There are more than 50 species of oaks in North America, about twenty of which are of commercial importance These belong either to the white ok or to the red oak group. Because distinguishing between the woods of the different species, they are regarded as either white or red oak.
Lumber of white oaks is harder, stronger and more durable than of red oaks. It is used for used for building timbers, piling, railroad ties, machinery parts, agricultural implements, furniture, flooring, cabinetwork, interior finish an cooperage. It is interesting to note that oak barrels are the most satisfactory containers for wine, beer and alcoholic spirits. The most important species in this group include the White Oak, Quercus alba, the Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa, the Post Oak, Quercus stellata, the Chestnut Oak, Quercus montana, the Swamp Chestnut Oak, Quercus prinus, the Oregon Oak, Quercus garryana, and the Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor.
Lumber of the red oaks is softer, more open grained, more porous and less durable than that of the white oaks. The main species include the Red Oak, Quercus borealis, the Black Oak, Quercus velutina, the Scarlet Oak, Quercus coccinea, the Pin Oak, Quercus palustris, the Turkey Oak, Quercus laevis, the Willow Oak, Quercus phellos, the Texas Red Oak, Quercus texana, and the Shingle Oak, Quercus imbricaria.
There are several species of live oaks in North America, but the most important is Quercus virginiana, which as the hardest, strongest and toughest wood of all the oaks. It has been used in the construction of ships, wagons and farm tools. There have never been great quantities of this species available.
Osage orange, Maclura pomifera, is a small tree native to the Gulf States but which has been cultivated in other areas. The wood is the heaviest, toughest, hardest and most durable of all the North American hardwoods. Only a small amount has ever been available, which was used mainly for fellies, tree nails, insulator pins, posts, stakes and woodenware. The Amerindians used this wood for their bows, and it is the source of a dyestuff.
True poplars in North America are referred to under several different names. The most important is the Cottonwood, Populus deltoids, which is found in the Central and Eastern portions of the continent. It has a soft, light, even-grained fibrous wood that is easy to work with. Its main uses are as a substitute for basswood in the manufacture of boxes and excelsior and as a pulpwood. It has also been used for woodenware, millwork and plywood. The Balsam Poplar, Populus balsamifera, several other large poplars, and the much smaller Aspens, Populus tremuloides and Populus grandidentata, have similar uses. Aspen wood is also used in the manufacture of furniture, matches and in cooperage and pulp for making book paper.
Red or Sweet Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua, has become of greater importance as a commercial wood by the middle of the 20th Century. This tree ranges from Connecticut to the mountains of Central America, attaining its finest development in the Southeastern United States. The wood is soft and light, but resilient and tough. It is reddish brown in color, with a fine, straight, close grain. It retains a good polish. It is often stained to imitate cherry, mahogany or walnut. It has been extensively used for veneers, furniture, cabinetwork, interior finish, fancy boxes and cooperage. The wood is known in Great Britain under the name of Satin Walnut, and the tree is the source of Storax, a medicinal product. The tree has a beautiful conical shape and has been planted widely as an ornamental. The foliage changes to a myriad of colors in autumn that rivals the hard maples. At latitudes of 31-38 deg. North in the southeastern United States the autumn display occurs from October through December and is as startling as that witnessed in the Northeastern portions of the continent (see Photos).
Platanus occidentalis is a familiar tree throughout the eastern deciduous forest of North America and it has a characteristic bark that peels off in large patches. It is the largest hardwood tree, the wood being tough, strong, hard and very durable. It is light reddish brown with a close uneven grain. A mottled figure with lustrous rays is created when quarter sawed. This is often sold as lacewood. Sycamore has been extensively used for tobacco boxes and other containers because it is odorless. It has also been used for millwork, furniture, interior decoration, butcher blocks, yokes, boxes, crates, woodenware, cooperage, brushes and plywood.
Liriodendron tulipifera is one of the largest trees of the eastern deciduous forest of North America, reaching a height of 125-250 ft. and a diameter of 6-14 ft. The wood is known commercially as Yellow Poplar or Whitewood. It is light, soft, and easily worked, with a fine straight grain. It is also stiff and durable although not very strong. It has been used for making boxes, furniture, carriage bodies, musical instruments, woodenware, toys, and boats, light construction and veneers.
There are two species that are known commercially as tupelo, the Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica, and Sour Gum, Nyssa aquatica. Black gum is distributed from Michigan to Maine and south to Florida and Texas, while the Sour Gum is restricted to the swamps of the southeastern United States. The wood is pale yellow with a dense, fine, twisted and interwoven grain. It is soft, tough, light, stiff and resistant to wear. Tupelo has also been used for flooring, tobacco boxes, wheel hubs, woodenware, veneers, railroad ties, handles, pulp, rollers, yokes and piling. The honey manufactured by bees from the blossoms is of the very highest quality.
Black Walnut, Juglans nigra, has been one of the most valuable of North American woods. The tree is large and occurs in the deciduous forest region from Minnesota and Massachusetts to Texas and Florida. It is a moderately hard wood, tough and strong and easily worked. It is very durable. The color varies from rich dark brown to purple black. It has a fine even grain and a good figure and is able to take a high polish. Black walnut has been exploited to the point of becoming scarce. It brings a high price, often being sold by the pound. It was being cultivated on farms by the end of the 20th Century. From the 17th Century onward it has been a principal wood for the manufacture of gunstocks. Other uses included furniture, millwork, cabinetwork, musical instruments, airplane propellers, sewing machines and veneers. In pioneer days it was used locally for barns, fences and light construction. The nut that is produced is very flavorful.
Butternut, Juglans cinerea, extends from New Brunswick to Minnesota and south to Arkansas and Georgia. The wood is similar to Black Walnut in nature and uses. However, the wood lacks the color and is not as strong. It is used primarily for boxes, furniture, crates, millwork, excelsior and woodenware. Sugar is sometimes obtained from the sap of the butternut and a dye is made from the green husks that contain the fruit.
Pyrus malus wood is usually obtained from old orchards. It is very strong, hard and compact with a uniform close grain. Uses have included the manufacture of tool handles, knobs, pipes, mallet heads, canes, rulers and turnery.
Alnus rubra is the largest of the alders, and is of some commercial importance in Oregon and Washington west of the Cascade Mountains. The wood has a fine even grain, uniform texture and a reddish brown color. It works and polishes well and gives a good imitation of Black Walnut and Mahogany. Uses include the manufacture of furniture, millwork, handles and novelties.
Carpinus caroliniana is a small tree of Eastern North America. The wood is heavy, strong and very stiff. No other wood exceeds its suitability for making levers. It is also used for charcoal and tool handles.
Aesculus octandra is a tree of the Middle Western United States that has a soft, light, easily worked wood. Uses have included the manufacture of boxes, excelsior, millwork, piano keys, furniture, trunks and artificial limbs.
Magnolia acuminata is the largest and most numerous of all the magnolias. It ranges in the southern portion of the North American deciduous forest. Its soft, light, durable wood is used for millwork, boxes, woodenware, excelsior and inexpensive furniture. In the trade it often is sold as yellow poplar.
Cornus florida is a small tree that occurs throughout eastern North America but reaches its optimum development in the southeastern United States. The wood is very hard and heavy, with a fine, lustrous, close grain. It is used mainly for shuttles for cotton mills and is very resistant to wear. Other uses include wedges, bobbins, mauls, golf-club heads, engraver’s blocks and cogs. Only the sapwood has value.
Catalpa speciosa is a small tree native to the lower Ohio Valley. It has been extensively planted in the Middle West. The wood is very durable and is much used for railroad ties and fence posts. The tree is often planted as an ornamental, and has showy, aromatic blossoms in springtime.
Gymnocladus dioica is a tree of the eastern deciduous forest that has a strong and durable wood. It is used for the manufacture of furniture, interior finish, bridges, sills, posts railroad ties and fuel.
Celtis occidentalis is tree of eastern North America. The wood is tough, strong, heavy and moderately hard, and is used mainly in millwork and for boxes, woodenware, furniture and cooperage.
Ilex opacas is a prominent tree of the Southern coastal area and lower Mississippi and Ohio Valleys of the United States. It is perhaps best known for its leaves and fruit that are associated with the Christmas Season. The tough, close-grained, whitish wood is used for inlays, brushes, fancy articles, and woodenware and is often stained to imitate ebony.
Ostrya virginiana occurs in Eastern North America and is one of the hardest, toughest and strongest woods known, but it is available only in small quantity. It has been used for carriage parts, levers, handles and fence posts.
Diospyros virginiana is a tree of the southeastern United States. The sapwood is very heavy, tough, hard, strong, elastic and resistant to wear. It has been used mainly for shuttles, boot and shoe findings, golf club heads and other sporting materials and in turnery. The fruit, which ripens in early autumn after a frost, is sweet and delicious.
Sassafras albidum is a small tree of the southeastern and Gulf portions of the United States. The wood is fragrant, durable, soft and light. It has been used for furniture, millwork, cooperage, fence rails and posts and boxes. A root beer is prepared from the roots.
Salix nigra is the only species of the numerous willows that has attained commercial importance. It is especially abundant in the flood plains of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. The smooth wood is soft, light, tough and somewhat strong. It has been used for boxes and crates, plywood cores, excelsior, bats, boats, water wheels and charcoal. The long, slender, pliable young shoots have been used to make wicker baskets and furniture.
Forests in South America have been decimated by indiscriminate logging and farming expansion, so that by the end of the 20th Century less than 440 percent of the land area still contained forest. The trees are mostly tropical hardwoods (85 percent) with some temperate hardwoods (5 percent) and conifers (6 percent). There are two major kinds of tropical hardwoods. The most abundant are in the dense humid rain forest that occurs in the Guianas and the Amazon and Orinoco River basins and along the eastern coast of Brazil. This forest is noted for the great number of species and for the size and frequency of the individual trees. There were once over 2,500 different tree species in the Amazon forest alone. This forest, which is the most extensive body of solid forest in the world, has scant vegetation on the forest floor due to the density of the canopy. Epiphytes and lianas are abundant and characteristic. In drier parts of Argentina and Brazil there is an open deciduous type of tropical forest. Mixed forests of conifers and temperate hardwoods occur along the northern Andes and again in the southern Cordilleras. Conifer forests are mainly of the Paraná Pine, Araucaria angustifolia. These cover large areas in southern Brazil and Argentina, while similar areas, with Araucaria araucana the dominant species, occur in Central Chile. In Argentina and Paraguay there are extensive areas of open forests composed mainly of Quebracho, Schinopsis lorentzii and Schinopsis balansae, important sources of tanwood.
Tropical forests in Mexico, Central America, the West Indies and South America have been harvested for centuries for some of the most high-grade cabinet and furniture woods of commerce. However, these forests have been little exploited as a source of ordinary lumber. The number of valuable species is vast. Brazil alone may have more than 3,000 woody species, including 50 of the most valuable cabinet woods. Some of the more important species are discussed.
Ochroma pyramidale is a soft and pithy wood that weighs only 10 lbs per cubic foot. The tree is found in the tropical forests from southern Mexico to northern Peru. Ecuador has furnished most of the world’s supply. Balsa is obtained mainly from wild tree, although some plantations have been established. This species grows faster than any other rain forest tree except the Papaya, and reaches a height of 12 ft. in one year. It may be harvested when only two years of age, but usually trees 6-9 years old are selected.
The presence of air in the cell cavities gives this wood its light weight and buoyancy. It has been used for life preservers, buoys, swimming belts, floats, rafts, pontoons, sea sleds, surfboards, toys and motion picture sets and in airplane construction. The wood also possesses good insulating properties and has been used to line refrigerators, vehicle bodies and the olds of ships. It possesses sound deadening properties and has been used to line ceilings and partitions under heavy machinery to reduce vibrations. The hairs from seeds have been used as stuffing material.
Gossypiospermum praecox has been used as a substitute for European boxwood in the manufacture of engraver’s blocks, rulers and other scientific instruments, shuttles, spools, musical instruments, inlays, bobbins and veneers. The supply originates mainly in Venezuela.
Spanish or Cigar Box Cedar, Cedrela odorata, ranges throughout tropical America, both as a native and introduced species. It is an important timber tree for local use in tropical America. The wood is reddish brown and aromatic with a straight coarse grain. It has been used for cigar boxes and it is an insect repellent. Other uses include linings for closets, chests, and shingles and as a substitute for mahogany.
Brya elbenus is also called American Ebony or Granadillo. The wood is used for knife handles, musical instruments (flutes and clarinets), turnery, inlays and cabinetwork. It is a very hard and durable wood and it polishes well. The supply is mainly from the West Indies.
Dalbergia retusa is a tree that occurs from Mexico to Panama. It is one of the showiest and most strikingly colored of the exotic woods. The heartwood is orange-to-orange red in color, streaked with jet black. It is very hard, tough and strong, and has been used for instruments, knife and umbrella handles, steering wheels, inlays, lacquer and turnery.
Carapa guianensis attains its best form in the Guianas, although it occurs also in other parts of South America and the West Indies. This very strong and hard, brown wood is used as a substitute for mahogany.
Ocotea rodioei is native to Guyana. The greenish-brown wood is used for structural timbers as it is one of the strongest and is hard, heavy, tough, resistant to decay and insect injury and elastic. It has been widely used in Europe for bridges, piles, wharves, paving blocks and shipbuilding. It is also used for shafts, spokes and fishing rods.
Two trees of the West Indies constitute the lancewood of commerce: Lancewood, Oxandra lanceolata and Degame or Lemonwood, Calycophyllum candidissimum. These give a yellowish wood with a fine close grain and which is very tough, strong and elastic. They are used for fish poles, spars, shafts, whips, ramrods, bows, cues, lances and turnery.
Piratinera guianensis of Guyana yields a very heavy ornamental wood. The color is brown with peculiar black markings. It has a close, fine and lustrous grain. It has been used for canes, umbrellas, violin bows, drumsticks, veneers and inlays.
Two species, Guaniacum officinale and G. sanctum supply this important wood. The trees occur in southern Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. This is one of the hardest of commercial woods, and it is naturally tough, strong and resistant. The color is dark brown, streaked with black, with a very fine, intricately woven grain. It also contains a resin that acts as a natural lubricant and preservative. It has been used for bearings or bushing blocks for steamship propeller shafts. It is also used to manufacture bowling balls, pulley blocks and conveyors, instruments and furniture. It was once believed that Lignum Vitae possessed remedial powers for many human diseases, and that is how it got its name “lignum vitae” or “wood of life.” A gum resin, Guaiacum, is used in medicine and occurs in the form of tears excreted from the living tree.
Hymenaea courbaril is a very important timber tree in tropical America. The wood is hard and tough, and it is used for general carpentry, furniture shipbuilding and cabinetwork. This species supplies South American Copal.
Several species of mahogany make up the most important export wood in tropical America, and they are the source of the world’s most valuable timber and premier cabinet wood. These are Swietenia mahogany, the West Indian Mahogany or Spanish Mahogany was used for woodwork by 1514 A.D. This species that ranges from the Florida Keys to the West Indies, was the first to be harvested commercially and the first to be exploited. It has been introduced into Central America and other tropical countries. Another species, Swietensia macrophylla, occurs from Yucatan to northeastern Colombia and Venezuela and along most of the southern effluents of the Amazon in Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. Although there are a few other species, for practical purposes all the native mahogany cut in North and South America probably belongs to this species.
The cathedral of Santo Domingo that was built in 1550 contains some magnificent mahogany carvings that are still in top condition. The early Spanish explorers utilized the timber for shipbuilding, and it was also used for building construction in England by 1680. From the beginning of the 18th Century it began to be used as furniture wood. During the years 1750 to 1825 great craftsmen of furniture, Chippendale, Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton, used mahogany.
Mahoganys are ornamental evergreen trees that reach a height of 40-50 ft. with large buttresses at the base. The trees occur scattered through rich moist forests about one to the acre. The wood is reddish brown with a crooked grain. It is very heavy, strong, hard enough to resist indentations, but easy to work with and it polishes and glues well. It has been used for furniture, fixtures, musical instruments, millwork, cars, ships and boats, caskets, airplanes, foundry patterns, veneers and plywood. There are many substitutes and imitations, but the supply of true mahogany is still abundant, especially as plantations production is proving successful.
Also known as Blue Mahoe, Hibiscus elatus of the West Indies is a hard and slightly aromatic wood with a lustrous, richly variegated, open grain. It has been used for cabinetwork, carriages, gunstocks, fishing rods and ship’s knees. It is the source of Cuba Bast.
Mora excelsa of Guyana, Venezuela and Trinidad yields a brown wood that is very hard, tough and even more durable than teak. It has been used primarily in Europe for shipbuilding, platforms, railroad ties and all types of heavy construction.
Sometimes called White Mahogany, Cybistax donnell-smithii occurs in southern Mexico, northern Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The cream colored wood is used for furniture and fixtures, millwork, ships. Boats, cars and veneers. The tree is also very ornamental with many yellow flowers that appear before the leaves.
Peltogyne paniculata occurs in Brazil, the Guyanas and Trinidad. The brown wood is very hard, tough, strong and durable. It gradually turns purple on exposure to the air. It has been used for heavy construction, furniture, billiard tables, cues, fishing rods, inlays and turnery.
Brazilian Rosewood, Dalbergia nigra, is the best known of several different species. The dark purple, almost black, wood is often striped and has a coarse, dense, even grain. This is one of the finest cabinet woods and also finds use for scientific instruments, furniture, cars, pianos, sporting and athletic goods, brushes and handles.
West Indian Satinwood, Zanthoxylum flavum, has been used to make furniture for a long time. It was especially valued in Great Britain by such builders as Sheraton, Adam and Hepplewhite. The creamy or golden yellow wood is smooth and lustrous and slightly oily. It has a very close, dense and even grain. Other uses have included millwork, musical instruments, caskets, brushes, inlays, cabinetwork and veneers.
The forests in Europe have occupied about 30 percent of the land area for quite some time as they are rigidly managed. About 70 percent of the forests are coniferous, 24 percent are temperate hardwoods and less than 2 percent are mixed forests. The coniferous woodlands are especially numerous in the northern portion of the continent, while the hardwood and mixed forests are found in Southern and Western Europe. The original forest cover of Europe has been greatly depleted from long utilization and the necessity of clearing land for agriculture and industry. In the British Isles only about 5 percent of the original forest was left by the end of the 20th Century. In France, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Greece about 10-20 percent was left. Over half the forests in Sweden and Finland are original, and together with Russia, are the most heavily forested regions in Europe.
There are many genera of American origin found in European forests. The principal conifers are the Scotch Pine, Pinus sylvestris and Norway Spruce, Picea abies. These furnish the woods referred to as Yellow Deal and White Deal, respectively. Other conifers include the Cluster Pine, Pinus pinaster, the Stone Pine, Pinus pinea, the Silver Fir, Abies alba, Larch, Larix deciduas, and Yew, Taxus baccata. American white pine and Douglas fir are also extensively planted.
Oak trees represent the most important hardwoods in Europe. The principal species are Quercus cerris, Quercus robur and Quercus petraea. Other hardwoods include the Black Alder, Alnus glutinosa, European Ash, Fraxinus excelsior, European Beech, Fagus sylvatica, European Birches, Betula pendula and Betula pubescens, European Cherry, Prunus cerasus, European Chestnut, Castanea sativa, European Elm, Ulmus procera, Hazel, Corylus avellana, European Holly, Ilex aquifolium, European Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus, European Lime, Tilia cordata, European Maple, Acer pseudoplatanus, European Plane, Platanus orientalis, Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, Blackthorn or Sloe, Prunus spinosa, and European Willow, Salix alba.
The main European trees that have been imported into North America include the Boxwood, Walnut, Briar and Olive.
Turkish Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, of Southern Europe, Asia Minor and Northern Africa, has practically disappeared due to over exploitation. The wood of this tree is very hard, with a fine, dense, uniform grain and a smooth, lustrous texture. It was sued for blocks, engraving, rulers and other instruments, shuttles, bobbins, firearms, whips, canes, inlays, umbrellas and turnery.
English Walnut, Juglans regia, also called Circassian Walnut, occurs naturally from the Black Sea region across Asia Minor and Persia to northern India. The wood is hard and beautifully figured and it takes a high polish. Wood obtained from the burls is particularly valuable. It has been used for fixtures and furniture, millwork, musical instruments, firearms, cabinetwork, turnery and veneers.
European Olive, Olea europaea, has wood that is suitable for brushes, canes and turnery, and of course the fruit is invaluable for its oil. Briar Root, Erica arborea, has been traditionally used for tobacco pipes.
By the end of the 20th Century forests covered less than 19 percent of the land area in Asia. These forests are most abundant in the northern and eastern parts of the continent and they are very sparse in the southwest. Much of the original forest area has been exploited to complete destruction. This is particularly evident in China, where centuries of cultivation have not only destroyed the forests, but much of the arable land as well because of over cultivation and subsequent erosion.
Conifers make up about 40 percent of the forest area. These are characteristic of most of Siberia and also occur in the Himalayas and the mountains of Asia Minor, Japan and China. European species are found in the western part of the continent, giving way to more distinctive Asiatic species of the same genera in the east. Pine, Spruce, Fir, Juniper, Cedar, Larch and Yew are the principal groups.
Temperate hardwoods make up about 26 percent of the forests. These and mixed forests are found in the southern portions of Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Asia Minor, China and Japan. European species are found in the western part of the continent, giving way to more distinctive Asiatic species of the same genera in the east. Maple, Ash, Basswood, Poplar, Alder, Birch, Walnut, and Oak are the principal groups. Tropical hardwoods make up about 30 percent of the total forest area and are found south of the Himalayas. In many areas they comprise all of the woody species. This is particularly true in Sri Lanka, Thailand, the East Indies and Malaya. As in other tropical forests the number of species is very large. India is estimated to have about 2,000 and Japan 1,000 different species. Many of the Asiatic forests are dominated by teak, while others are composed mainly of members of the Dipterocarpaceae and Leguminosae. The former family comprises over 75 percent of the tree species in the Philippines. A large number of these Asiatic woods enter into world commerce, the most important of which include Ebony, Padouk, Satinwood and Teak..
There are several species of tree that furnish a wood known as ebony, the most important of which is the Macassar Ebony, Diospyros ebenum, found from India to the East Indies. The wood is black with brown stripes. It is very hard and heavy and has a fine grain. It takes a high polish and has been used since ancient times as a cabinet wood. Other uses include canes, whips, umbrellas, piano keys, sporting and athletic goods, inlays, handles, turnery and veneers.
Also called Burmese Rosewood, Pterocarpus indicus is a very ornamental tree. The lustrous wood is red in color with black stripes. It is hard and durable and polishes well. Padouk has been used for furniture, fine cabinetwork, car construction, millwork, veneers and turnery. The tree has been introduced into Honduras.
East Indian Satinwood, Chloroxylon swietenia, has a hard yellowish or dark brown heartwood that is sometimes mottled. It has a satin like luster and a fine, dense, even grain. Satinwood is used for cabinetwork, furniture, brushes and veneers.
Tectona grandis is native to Southeastern Asia and Malaya. It is one of the most durable of woods and is a very important timber of the tropics. The wood is hard and it does not warp, split, or crack. Thus it is valuable for general construction. It is also very resistant to termites and decay. The color is yellowish brown and greasy to the touch. It has been widely used in ship and boat building, and for cabinetwork, furniture, millwork, piles, railway cars, greenhouses and flooring. The tree has been introduced into the West Indies and Panama where it has shown phenomenal growth. One tree attained a height of 64 ft. and a diameter of 18 in. in less than 16 years.
Other important trees of tropical Asia that supply valuable wood include the Acle or Pyinkado, Xylia xylocarpa, Deodar, Cedrus deodara, Sal, Shorea robusta, and Sissoo, Dalbergia sissoo. These have all been used for general construction Additional species used for cabinet manufacture include Moulmein Cedar, Cedrela toona, Laurelwood, Calophyllum inophyllum, Rosewood, Dalbergia latifolia and Asian Sandalwood, Santalum album.
The African Continent consists of primarily of deserts or semi-deserts, so that forests cover only about 10 percent of the area. These begin south of the Sahara Desert. Tropical hardwoods are in the majority with over 95 percent of the forests. Temperate hardwoods account for less than 4 percent and conifers less than one percent, the latter being restricted to lands along the Mediterranean and the higher mountains in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.
Two main types of tropical forests occur. First, the extensive dense rain forest that covers much of equatorial Africa, especially the West African coast and the Congo Basin. This region has a rainfall of 60-160 in., which is uniformly distributed throughout the year. Salient characteristics of this forest are the mangrove swamps along the coast. An open park like forest exists in regions where rainfall is only 30-40 in. Large areas of this type of forest occur in the northeastern and southern parts of Africa, especially in Angola and Zimbabwe. There are many important kinds of woods that resemble those of tropical America and Asia, but they have not been as extensively exploited. African Mahogany, Khaya senegalensis, a West Coast species, is exported in some quantity. This substitute for true mahogany has a wood that is beautifully figured and colored. The coastlands from Senegal in the west down through Mozambique in the east contain scattered stands of palm thickets prominent among which is the Senegal Date, Phoenix reclinata.
An era of forest exploitation began in the equatorial rainforest at the end of the 20th Century, which is threatening the existence of many native species. Efforts to curb this devastation are met with resistance from the local populations that are facing continuous political unrest.
In Australia only about 6 percent of the land area is covered in forests. In New Zealand about 26 percent is forested and in Oceania 70 percent. The most extensively forested regions are New Guinea with 80 percent, Samoa with 70 percent and Tasmania with 64 percent. Conifers comprise about 4 percent of the Australian forests and 11 percent are temperate hardwoods with the rest being tropical hardwoods. Conifers are found in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania and temperate hardwoods only in Tasmania. Tropical hardwoods occur in all the states except Tasmania. These forests are dense and resemble the size and density of those along the Pacific Coast in North America. However, the species differ from those found in other parts of the world. Most trees are either eucalyptus or acacias. Over 70 commercial species of Eucalyptus exist, the most important of which are the Karri, Eucalyptus diversicolor, and Jarrah, Eucalyptus marginata of Western Australia. Karri may reach a height of 300 ft. with a clear length of 180 ft. Other valuable trees are the Blackwood, Acacia melanoxylon, and Silk Oak, Grevillea robusta. The predominant coniferous species is Hoop Pine, Araucaria cunninghamii.
About 68 percent of the forests in New Zealand are coniferous and the rest hardwoods. The main species is the Kauri Pine, Agathis australis, one of the largest timber trees in the world. The wood is strong and durable and generally free from knots. It has been exported in large quantities. An important resin is also extracted from the kauri. Other valuable species include the New Zealand White Pine, Podocarpus dacrydioides, Totara, Podocarpus totara, New Zealand Red Pine, Dacrydium cupressinum and several species of beech.
Forests in Oceania are composed entirely of tropical hardwoods, with few being of importance for export. On the small island of Norfolk off the east coast of Australia, the Norfolk Pine, Araucaria heterophylla (excelsa), was being harvested in considerable quantity in the 20th Century for timber. Its rapid growth enabled a viable industry on the island, only five miles in diameter.