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Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


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Summary Statement

Center For Wood Anatomy Research The mission of the Center is to combine state-of-the-art knowledge and techniques in botany and wood anatomy in the search for new approaches and improvements to wood identification and to accumulate and make known information on the anatomical and other characteristics of woods that may affect their utilization potential.

The areas chosen for emphasis include systematic wood anatomy, wood quality especially large databases of anatomical, physical, and mechanical data for temperate and tropical hardwoods and softwoods, descriptive wood anatomy and identification with a slant toward computer-assisted wood identification, and the development of informational databases. The Center has identified the following areas for further investigation:

  • Wood quality studies of western pines to test the effects of site conditions on wood anatomy and properties, and of orange trees grown in varying environments.
  • The compilation of all common and scientific names of world woods into a database, which links to technical data sheets when available.
  • The wood anatomy and identification of the commercially important species of Dalbergia.
  • Technical information leaflets and books on commercial and little used North American and tropical woods.
  • Wood anatomy of Croton.


In addition to the research mission, the Center identifies wood for industries, museums, universities, other government agencies, and the general public; maintains the world's largest research wood collection; and answers questions concerning the properties, characteristics, and uses of tropical and little known native species.

1. Wood Identification - Since the lab opened its doors in 1910, the wood anatomy project has been heavily involved in identifying wood from inside and outside the government. We have a reputation for being the best in the country and perhaps the world! This year we identified approximately 1300 wood samples representing nearly 600 letters. In addition to these letters, we answer probably another 500 letters and emails regarding everything from 'what's shitam wood and where can I buy some?' to 'Send me all the information you have on tropical woods used for flooring' or 'Send me information on a wood called Brazilian teak.'

2. Xylarium and Herbarium - We have the largest (over 103,000 samples) and best research wood collection (xylarium) in the world! We use the samples in the collection for anatomical research and for comparisons in our identification work. The Center adds new specimens, updates name changes, and loans material to other wood anatomists throughout the world as requested. To assist in the management of the collections, the Center is entering all the collection information into a data base from which we can obtain much more organized information. To date we have all the information entered from our Madison wood collection (nearly 50,000 specimens) and are continuing to add specimens as they are accessioned. Eventually we will add information from the S. J. Record collection (55,000) specimens. The herbarium (collection of dried plants, usually a twig with leaves, flowers and/or fruits attached) is quite small (approx. 25,000 sheets), but it contains many specimens which are vouchers for the wood specimens. It is now on permenant loan to the University of Wisconsin, Department of Botany and is house with the UW Herbarium, but kept as a separate collection. Before the collection was transferred, herbarium sheets with wood collections were scanned and will be made available on our web site.