What is the difference between hardwood and softwood?

Did you know? 

Trees with seeds, like the acorns of Oak trees, are hardwoodSome wood is referred to as “hardwood”, while others are termed “softwood”.

From the terms, you would expect this categorising to be related to the softness of the wood.  But that’s not the case.

The terms have nothing to do with the hardness of the wood, but rather with the structure of the actual trees, their leaves and their seeds.

Trees that reproduce by producing seeds, such as nuts or cones, are gymnosperms and the wood from these trees is termed “softwood”.

Whereas, if the tree propagates itself by the means of flowers, then they are termed angiosperms and they produce hardwood.

Another characteristic is the seed producing trees are also more resistant to attacks from insects, and the softwood is used to make paper, card and in the construction industry.

Whereas, flowering trees often have broader leaves, and are found in more tropical and temperate forests.  These hardwood trees also tend to grow slower than softwood trees.

Within these two type of trees – gymnosperms or angiosperms – the density of the wood varies with different species of trees, and this correlates to the wood’s strength and mechanical properties.

So next time you admire a piece of hardwood, remember it’s origin was in a flower, while a trunk of softwood was once the hidden potential in a nut!

Trees with flowers, like cherry blossom trees, are softwood