Skip to Main Content
Structure and function of woodAuthor(s): Alex Wiedenhoeft
Source: Wood handbook : wood as an engineering material: chapter 3. Centennial ed. General technical report FPL ; GTR-190. Madison, WI : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, 2010: p. 3.1-3.18.
Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
Station: Forest Products Laboratory
PDF: Download Publication (1.16 MB)
DescriptionWood is a complex biological structure, a composite of many chemistries and cell types acting together to serve the needs of a living plant. Attempting to understand wood in the context of wood technology, we have often overlooked the key and basic fact that wood evolved over the course of millions of years to serve three main functions in plants― conduction of water from the roots to the leaves, mechanical support of the plant body, and storage of biochemicals. There is no property of wood—physical, mechanical, chemical, biological, or technological—that is not fundamentally derived from the fact that wood is formed to meet the needs of the living tree. To accomplish any of these functions, wood must have cells that are designed and interconnected in ways sufficient to perform these functions. These three functions have influenced the evolution of approximately 20,000 different species of woody plants, each with unique properties, uses, and capabilities, in both plant and human contexts. Understanding the basic requirements dictated by these three functions and identifying the structures in wood that perform them allow insight to the realm of wood as an engineering material (Hoadley 2000). A scientist who understands the interrelationships between form and function can predict the utility of a specific wood in a new context. The objective of this chapter is to review the basic biological structure of wood and provide a basis for interpreting its properties in an engineering context. By understanding the function of wood in the living tree, we can better understand the strengths and limitations it presents as a material.
CitationWiedenhoeft, Alex. 2010. Structure and function of wood. Wood handbook : wood as an engineering material: chapter 3. Centennial ed. General technical report FPL ; GTR-190. Madison, WI : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, 2010: p. 3.1-3.18.
KeywordsJuvenile wood, plant cell walls, tree-rings, cambium, wood anatomy, softwoods, hardwoods, sapwood, heartwood, anatomy, identification, wood moisture, plant parenchyma, density, wood density, lumber, wood color, reaction wood, tracheids, wood fibers, color of wood, knots
XML: View XML