Document Type

Forests & Forestry

Publication Date



This publication provides information on how to identify wood of several species common to Tennessee by using a hand-magnifying lens. Included in this publication are a wood identification key for some common Tennessee species, a list of key specie characteristics and a list of companies that sell wood identification sample sets.

Tennessee has a rich variety of tree species, and the wood produced from each of these has unique structure, physical and mechanical properties. The differences in wood structure and properties allow for the manufacture of wood-based products with many different appearances and uses. Since wood is a popular and useful material, it is important that enthusiasts and professionals be able to distinguish the wood of one species from another. For example, how would a barrel manufacturer tell the difference between red oak, which doesn’t hold liquids, and white oak, which does?

Wood of a particular species can be identified by its unique features. These features include strength, density, hardness, odor, texture and color. Reliable wood identification usually requires the ability to recognize basic differences in cellular structure and wood anatomy. Each species has unique cellular structure that creates differences in wood properties and ultimately determines the suitability for a particular use. Cellular characteristics provide a blueprint for accurate wood identification.

Wood is composed of many small cells and its structure is determined by the type, size, shape and arrangement of these cells. The structure and characteristics of wood can vary between species and within the same species. With practice, a small hand lens (10x) can be used to distinguish the different cell types and their arrangements. By using the proper techniques, you can become efficient and accurate at wood identification.

Publication Number

PB1692-1.5M-2/02 E12-4915-00-010-002

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