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The Difference Between Softwood and Hardwood

woodSoftwood vs Hardwood
The terms softwood and hardwood do not refer to the density of the wood, but rather the type of tree that the wood comes from. Hardwood comes from angiosperms and softwood comes from gymnosperms. Therefore, the porous and easily scored balsa is hardwood but the dense and hard to work yew is softwood.

Characteristics of Angiosperms

  • Trees produce flowers
  • Fertilization takes place through pollination of these flowers by birds and insects
  • Mature seeds are encased in a nut or fruit
  • Generally deciduous ‘“ looses leaves annually
  • Leaves are often broad and flat
  • Grow in temperate and tropical climates
  • Slower growing and therefore denser
  • Different varieties are mixed throughout a forest tract

Some common varieties:

  • Maple
  • Mahogany
  • Balsa
  • Elm
  • Oak

Characteristics of Gymnosperms

  • Trees produce cones
  • Fertilization takes place when cones emit pollen into the wind
  • Mature seeds are inside the cones
  • Evergreen ‘“ keep their leaves all year round
  • Leaves are thin and needle-like
  • Grow in temperate and cold climates
  • Quick growing and therefore generally lighter
  • Often grow in large, single-species tracks

Some common varieties:

  • Redwood
  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Fur
  • Spruce

Common Uses for Hardwoods

  • Hardwood flooring
  • High quality furniture
  • Boat-building
  • Wooden toys
  • Fixtures, fittings, and moldings

Common Uses for Softwood

  • Wood turning
  • Outdoor decking (redwood)
  • Outdoor cladding, siding
  • General construction, building frames
  • Ladders and masts

Within both softwood and hardwood there are some varieties of wood that are of a higher quality than others. Redwood, with its natural insecticide properties, is prized over pine, and lustrous mahogany over spongy balsa. In general, however, hardwood is a more costly wood than softwood. This is because hardwood trees grow individually within large stands of different types of trees. For example, to harvest mahogany one may have to trek for many miles with the rainforest before finding a suitable tree. On the other hand, in the western United States, stands of pine trees can front a highway or rail line for twenty miles or more.


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  1. Difference Between Oak and Pine | Difference Between | Oak vs Pine
  2. Difference Between Oak and Maple | Difference Between | Oak vs Maple

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