Hardwood, Softwood, Whats in a Name?


Did you know that the terms hardwood and softwood actually refer to the type of tree? Hardwood, is the wood from angiosperm trees. The term softwood is used to describe wood from trees that are known as gymnosperms. Conifers are an example. It may also be used to describe trees which tend to be evergreen, notable exceptions being bald cypress and the larches. In both groups there is an enormous variation in actual wood hardness, with the range in density in hardwoods completely including that of softwoods; some hardwoods (e.g. balsa) are softer than most softwoods, while the hardest hardwoods are much harder than any softwood. The woods of longleaf pine, douglas fir, and yew are much harder in the mechanical sense than several hardwoods. (from wikipedia) Cypress is a softwood that has a very interesting history and number of unique properties.

cypressThe use of Cypress has been well documented since the dawn of time.  It is durable, weather resistance, and uniquely attractive. Noah’s ark is probably the most famous example, the ancient Egyptians made their mummy cases out of it and it was often used in the doors of cathedrals.

Cypress grows in swampy areas, it is very durable and has good resistance to water.  This is one reason many people choose cypress to side their homes or use as ceilings. Cypress planking has a gentle feathery grain, and can range from off-white to deep-red.  Other pros about using cypress wood siding is that it has natural oil “cypressene” that gives it good resistance to insects and weather. It can be machined easily and works well with finishes and glues and also holds nails and screws tightly.cypress

An article from WoodSource magazine  “The Long Term Benefits of Building with Cypress”  features cabins on the shores of Lake Michigan built for the 1933 World’s Fair.  In the article on page 14 Todd Zeiger, director of the Northern Region Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, describes the good performance of cypress compared to other woods which “had rotted away”.

River Recovered® Heart Cypress can be up to a thousand or more years old! And what is exciting is that these trees were not felled by clear cutting ancient forests, but by natural forces, or by long ago foresters.