Sapwood and Heartwood
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What Is the Difference Between Sapwood and Heartwood?

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Sapwood is the living, outermost portion of a woody stem or branch, while heartwood is the dead, inner wood, which often comprises the majority of a stem’s cross-section. You can usually distinguish sapwood from heartwood by its lighter color. And, the relative amounts of sapwood. Heartwood, also called duramen, dead, central wood of trees. Its cells usually contain tannins or other substances that make it dark in colour and sometimes.

Definition of heartwood. Examples of heartwood in a Sentence Recent Examples on the Web That is normal behavior for ancient yews; often the heartwood rots out, giving the elderly tree a lighter load to bear. First Known Use of heartwood circa , in the meaning defined above. Learn More about heartwood.

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Resources for heartwood Time Traveler! Explore the year a word first appeared. While this part of the trunk is vital to the tree when it is living, it doesn't make for very good stock for woodworking.

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Because sapwood contains a lot of moisture, it shrinks considerably when it dries, and it is much more susceptible to fungus. The inner, darker section of the trunk is the heartwood. Heartwood is formed from old, "retired" sapwood and becomes the strong spine of the tree.

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Heartwood is preferred for woodworking, as it is far less susceptible to fungus and contains much less moisture than sapwood, which means it will shrink less when it dries. Once the tree has "promoted" some of its sapwood to heartwood status, the sap will stop flowing through that part of the wood and the converting material essentially dies.

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As part of the conversion process, the pores begin to plug up with organic matter, which causes the cell walls to change color due to the presence of chemicals often generically called extractives. The extractives typically are responsible for the rich character and colors found in heartwoods.

Some wood species, such as redwood and cedar, are touted as naturally decay-resistant materials that are less susceptible to rot and insects than other softwood, like pine or spruce. While this claim has some validity, it's important to note that natural decay-resistance often applies primarily to the heartwood.

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So if you're planning a woodworking project for outdoor use and you really want it to last, you should probably pony up for "all-heartwood" or "all-heart" grade when buying lumber like redwood and cedar. Also, bear in mind that all wood weathers and turns gray outdoors if it's not stained or otherwise protected from UV degradation. Many experienced woodworkers actually remove the sapwood and use only heartwood for their furniture projects. But this doesn't mean that the trimmed sapwood is junk that's good only for the woodpile.