Structure and function of wood

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  • Authors: Wiedenhoeft, Alex; Eberhardt, Thomas
  • Publication Year: 2021
  • Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
  • Source: Chapter 3 in FPL-GTR-282


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 150,000 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. 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.

  • Citation: Wiedenhoeft, A.; Eberhardt, T.L. . 2021. Chapter 3: Structure and function of wood. In: Wood handbook—wood as an engineering material. General Technical Report FPL-GTR-282. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 20 pp.
  • Keywords: wood biology, wood chemistry, wood anatomy, wood identification
  • Posted Date: March 23, 2021
  • Modified Date: March 24, 2021
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