Posts Tagged ‘conifer’

Wooden Wonders part six: yew – a hard softwood! by Kate Cashmore

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, is full of magnificent trees.

As part of our half term Wooden Wonders event taking place from 14 – 16 February, Kate Cashmore from Westonbirt’s learning team has created a trail which will help you find out about our hidden wonders.

Here, she highlights some of the Wooden Wonders that you can discover when you follow the trail.

Yew, though a conifer, grows slowly and has very hard wood.

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The older, heartwood is dark and the outer sapwood light, which combination is used for decorative effect by carvers for example for bowls.

The different qualities of the two woods is used to great effect in longbows – by combining a strip of heartwood with a strip of sapwood, the bow can bend in the most effective way.

The oldest wooden artefact dug up in Britain, is a yew spear 150,000 years old!

The trunks tend to grow in strange shapes – look out for them along the path as you follow the Wooden Wonders trail this half term.

Useful links
Find out more about the Wooden Wonders event
Buy great value Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum membership
More great activities for families

Wooden Wonders part two: hard or soft? by Kate Cashmore

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, is full of magnificent trees.

As part of our half term Wooden Wonders event taking place from 14 – 16 February, Kate Cashmore from Westonbirt’s learning team has created a trail which will help you find out about our hidden wonders.

Here, she highlights some of the Wooden Wonders that you can discover when you follow the trail.

Tree seedlings are soft, but as they grow bigger, they deposit a hard, strong substance, called lignin in some of their cells all around the stem.

These cells die, and become wood, or timber. Their job is to strengthen the stem.

Foresters divide timber into ‘hard’ and soft’, depending on whether it comes from a conifer (softwood tree), like a pine, or a deciduous broadleaved tree (hardwood tree), such as an oak.

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Generally, softwood trees are fast growing, and the wood is coarse-grained and relatively soft, whereas hardwood trees are slow growing, hard and with a fine grain.

But there are exceptions! Just as barks are different, the wood of different trees has different qualities.

The tall straight trunks of pine make it good for telegraph poles and fences and even, in the past, water pipes.

As it grows quickly and easily, it is also a cheap wood for furniture, and, like other softwoods, its long fibres make it good for paper.

Useful links
Find out more about the Wooden Wonders event
Buy great value Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum membership
More great activities for families