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haed wood-soft wood differences

updated thu 7 nov 02


Stephani Stephenson on wed 6 nov 02

Philip wrote

"I do not recall any Conifers as may act deciduously
however...if there are any who do."

Hi Philip
One tree that comes to mind is the Western Larch ,(Larix occidentalis
Nuttall), or the 'Tamarack"
as it is called up in the Inland Empire of the Northwestern US/ It is a
lovely conifer, found in the the Blue Mountains, The Wallowas , the
Strawberry mtns, and other smaller ranges as well as parts of the
Cascades , the Bitterroots and the Rockies.

A conifer, the Tamarack's needles turn bright gold yellow fall colors
and they drop off just like a typical deciduous tree. Tamarack provides
a lovely, lacy, autumn surprise in the largely green pine and fir
forests of the region.

For a conifer and a 'softwood', the Tamarack has relatively hard and
heavy wood. It is easily worked for tools and takes a good polish. . The
wood is coarse grained, strong ,durable, hard and heavy (46 lbs per
cubic foot , dry weight). it is a desirable wood for furniture ,
construction and is one of the preferred woods for heating.

I always thought of it somewhere in the middle of the scale...harder
than the softest wood, softer than the hardest wood;, more valuable than
the cheapest wood, less valuable than the precious wood: bearing needles
and cones, and dropping its needles at the end of summer.

Also , as an aside, i love characteristics of different types of wood.
One winter I worked at a ski resort and lived in a cabin a few miles
down the mountain. A neighbor brought me some cherry wood cut from old
orchard trees in the valley. I couldn't build a fire with the cherry
alone.... it just wouldn't take fire, even though it was dry and aged.
So I would get a good hot fire going with some cedar or pine, then
introduce some cherry wood. I would have to augment the fire with these
other woods for quite some time before the small cherry logs would burn
on their own, but once they did , they provided a flame that was so
different from the softwood I was use to. It was a LOW steady flame but
one that would last for hours, even from a small piece of wood.

I noted with pleasure that the flame from the cherry wood burned a
beautiful deep cherry red, unlike any color I had seen . Good
entertainment on winter evenings, curled up by the stove.

Stephani Stephenson