Difference between Hardwood and Softwood
Hardwood does not necessarily refer to a wood that is hard and dense. Similarly, softwood is not necessarily a soft or less dense wood. Let us see how they differ from each other!
Hardwood is the wood that is obtained from angiosperms (flowering plants) such as evergreen trees especially with broad-leaves and deciduous trees which shed leaves annually. The seeds of angiosperms are enclosed in the ovary which later develops into a fruit. They usually grow at a slower pace and are far bigger in size. It is believed that black ironwood is one of the hardest woods known to the mankind.
Hardwood trees have xylem with vessels to carry or transport water throughout the tree. The cell walls of these xylem vessels are lined with lignin which is an extremely hard material, responsible for the hardness of the tree. The main advantage of hardwood is that they are more durable than softwoods. Some of the species of hardwood trees commonly found in Europe and USA are willow, maple, sassafras, olive tree, walnut, cherry, ash, alder, birch, cottonwood, elm etc.
Softwood is the wood that is obtained from gymnosperms like pines, larches, spruces etc. These trees produce naked seeds which mean their seeds are not enclosed in an ovary or any other protective covering like an ovary. These trees have needle-shaped leaves and generally grow fast than hardwood trees. More than 70% timber is obtained from softwood which makes it four times more common than hardwood.
Softwood is cheaper than hardwood so sometimes it is used as a substitute for hardwood. It is also lighter and easier to cut to produce planks with different shapes. Generally, the softwood is light-colored and has less distinct grain and is very knotty. The knots are circles which result from the branches of the trunk.
Based on the above information, some of the key differences between hardwood and softwood are as follows: