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    Author(s): Alex C. Wiedenhoeft
    Date: 2012
    Source: In: Handbook of Wood Chemistry and Wood Composites, second edition, pp.9-32; 2013. Chapter 2.
    Publication Series: Book Chapter
    Station: Forest Products Laboratory
    PDF: Download Publication  (12.76 MB)


    Wood is a complex biological structure, a composite of many cell types and chemistries acting together to serve the needs of living plant. Attempting to understand wood inthe context of wood technology, we have often overlooked the 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 and synthesis of biochemicals. There is no property of wood–physical, mechanical, chemical, biological, or technological–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 EO perform them. 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 a composite material itself, and as a component of composite wood products (Hoadley 2000, Barnett and Jeronimidis 2003). 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.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Wiedenhoeft, Alex C. 2013. Structure and Function of Wood. In: Handbook of Wood Chemistry and Wood Composites, second edition, pp.9-32; 2013. Chapter 2.

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