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Wood, no matter what kind, is a living natural product and each one is unique. The grain and coloring of the different types of wood are also individual, as is their possible use.

In a nutshell

  • Types of wood are very varied in terms of color and grain
  • Wood colors range from whitish and yellow to reddish to brown and blackish
  • In the case of wood species with heartwood, the main color refers precisely to this
  • Structure or grain can be coarse, fine or almost non-existent
  • Woods such as pine, spruce and larch have so-called resin veins

Wood colors according to wood species and their use

deciduous trees

Maple (Acer)

  • The most important European representatives are sycamore and Norway maple
  • The brightest species is the sycamore
  • Yellows over time
  • Norway maple varies between yellowish and slightly gray tones
  • Field maple is somewhat redder
  • No visible boundaries between sapwood and heartwood
  • Fine light brown lines and fine-pored, homogeneous structure
  • Thanks to its strength and elasticity, it is used in the manufacture of furniture and as flooring
  • Not suitable for outdoor use
  • Hardly weather-resistant, tendency to fungal attack

Tip: Sapwood is the sap-bearing wood just below the cambium (growth layer between the sapwood zone and tree bark). Heartwood is dead wood but by no means unusable because it is more resilient, harder and more durable than sapwood.

Pear tree (Pyrus communis)

  • Wood colors evenly light, yellowish to reddish-brown
  • Darkens under the influence of light
  • Barely discernible annual rings, numerous rays
  • Pores very fine and numerous
  • Sapwood and heartwood indistinguishable when dry
  • Usually not a true color core
  • Older trees sometimes have a brown-violet, irregular core
  • Birch wood does not work and is very durable
  • Special feature: good carving wood
  • Used in furniture making and veneers
  • For building tools and musical instruments
  • Special feature: flamed veneers of particularly high quality
Source: Anonimski, 16 wood samples, edited from Plantopedia, CC0 1.0

Birch (Betula)

  • Mostly pale yellowish to reddish-white sapwood
  • Also brownish on older trees
  • Color darkens quickly
  • Grain, hardly recognizable bright lines, partially flamed
  • Birch wood from Finland of particularly high quality
  • Special grain in the form of an ice birch pattern
  • Birch wood is generally soft, elastic, not weather-resistant
  • Use as veneer wood, flooring, ceiling and wall paneling

Tip: Red spots in the wood are not unusual, but can indicate an insect infestation.

Beech (Fagus)

  • Reddish-white to light reddish in colour, fine, even texture
  • Hardly distinguishable sapwood and heartwood
  • The sapwood occupies the entire cross-section of the trunk
  • From the age of 80, formation of an irregular (facultative) red core
  • Not weatherproof, very susceptible to fungal and insect infestation
  • Use as veneer wood, for plywood production, for seating furniture
  • Especially for parquet, in stair construction, household items
  • Not suitable for damp rooms or outdoors

Oak (Quercus)

  • Mostly narrow split yellowish-white to light grey
  • Heartwood basically light or honey yellow, grey-yellow to light brown
  • Darkens yellow to dark brown under the influence of light
  • The sapwood and core are clearly demarcated
  • Pronounced pore grooves, distinctive wood rays (medullary rays), clearly structured
  • For windows, doors, as stair wood, for veneers and for furniture production

Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

  • One of the types of wood without real heartwood
  • Fresh wood pale yellowish to light reddish white
  • Darkens to reddish brown
  • Annual rings of different widths
  • Pores very fine and scattered
  • Rays together at irregular intervals
  • Impression of a wide wood ray is created (pseudo-medullary ray)
  • Use as plywood, for carving, for carpentry and turning

Tip: A special feature of the alder is that it is very durable under water, while it is actually not weatherproof.

Source: Beentree, Alnus glutinosa wood tangent section 1 beentree, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

  • Wood colors from creamy white to light brown
  • Sapwood white, also reddish or brownish with age
  • Not clearly distinguishable from the heartwood
  • Core sometimes dark brown or black
  • Straight fibrous, coarse structure, with decorative markings
  • Often cloudy or irregularly striped
  • Annual rings clearly visible
  • Use indoors, as parquet, veneer wood and for furniture production
Source: CC BY-SA 3.0,, Ash common wood, edited from Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

  • Wood color yellowish-white to light gray over the entire cross-section
  • Fades in bright light
  • Older trees often irregular and brownish
  • Rays large, irregularly distributed
  • The heaviest wood of all domestic types of timber
  • High wear resistance
  • Little permanent outdoors
  • For heavily used, small-sized objects (chopping blocks, clamps, etc.)
Source: Beentree, Carpinus betulus wood tangent section 1 beentree, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Linden (Tilia cordata)

  • The sapwood and core are usually yellowish-white
  • Sometimes slightly reddish tones
  • Linden wood tends to turn green and blue
  • A striking feature is the silky sheen
  • Fine, even, very dense drawing
  • Wood rays are widely spaced
  • Bright border band of annual rings clearly visible
  • Mainly used in arts and crafts, instrument making and toys
Source: Wood_Tilia_platyphyllos.jpg.webp: Achim Raschka (talk) derivative work: IKAl (talk), Wood Tilia platyphyllos shot, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Poplar (Populus)

  • Core and sapwood of black poplar and their hybrids colored differently
  • white poplars no differences in colouring
  • Wood colors from white-yellowish to grey-yellowish to brownish
  • Core of the black poplar partly slightly greenish
  • Otherwise light brown to reddish brown
  • Structure fine-pored, homogeneous, simple
  • Not weatherproof, robust against wear and tear
  • For interior design, baskets, fruit crates, packaging, benches, wooden loungers, roof shingles
Source: CC BY-SA 3.0,, poplar wood, edited from Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

  • Heartwood basically yellowish green, olive brown or golden brown
  • Sapwood light yellow, clearly demarcated from the core
  • Pores large and annular
  • Annual rings clearly visible
  • Matt silky sheen
  • Use as construction wood, for fences, masts, in boat building


Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

  • Has white to yellowish gray sapwood
  • Depending on the age of the tree narrow to wide
  • Clearly distinct from the heartwood when fresh
  • Core yellow-brown to reddish-brown, darkening significantly
  • Growth rings tend to be broader when young
  • Small, barely visible, scattered resin canals
  • Contains a very volatile resin
  • Gives fresh wood a pungent, aromatic smell
  • Suitability for indoor and outdoor use
  • Use in horticulture, for floors, stairs and veneers

Spruce (Picea abies)

  • Wood colors vary between yellowish white and yellowish brown
  • The color of the sapwood and heartwood cannot be distinguished
  • Have a natural shine
  • Wood straight-grained, with fine texture, very resinous
  • Annual rings clearly visible
  • Less susceptible to wood stain than pine
  • The most commonly used building and construction timber
  • Indoors for floors, cladding, built-in furniture and sauna construction
  • For windows, fences, gates, facade cladding

Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

  • Outer sapwood shimmering yellowish-white
  • Heartwood basically reddish brown, slightly resinous
  • Annual rings and resin canals clearly visible
  • Texture varies between fine and coarse depending on location
  • Used for doors, windows, furniture, ship and bridge building, veneers, structural timber
  • Resin is used to obtain turpentine

Tip: The sapwood is particularly susceptible to blue stain fungi and the heartwood moderately resistant to wood-destroying fungi.

Source: Achim Raschka, Wood pinus silvestris, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Larch (Larix decidua)

  • Narrow, pale reddish sapwood
  • Heartwood from yellowish to reddish to orange-brown
  • Strongly darkening under the influence of light
  • Straight-grained, with pronounced growth rings
  • Small resin canals, only visible with a magnifying glass
  • Permanently durable, even untreated outdoors
  • Mainly used in gardening and landscaping
  • As well as for floors, windows, interior doors, panelling

Fir (Abies alba)

  • The color of the sapwood and heartwood cannot be distinguished
  • Wood colors from matt reddish to yellowish-white
  • Often with a gray-purple tint
  • Resin canals are absent, and medullary rays are barely visible
  • Fine texture, straight-grained
  • Wood susceptible to beetle infestation
  • Use in interior design, construction, scaffolding, for boxes and pallets
Source: Achim Raschka, Wood Abies alba, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

precious woods

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

  • Minimal color differences between sapwood and heartwood
  • Visible only when wet
  • Dry, evenly yellowish-white to waxy yellow
  • Darkens only slightly in the light
  • Grain straight, very irregular in places
  • Wood rays hardly discernible
  • Use limited to crafts

Cherry tree (Prunus avium)

  • Fine wood with light yellowish-white sapwood and reddish-brown heartwood
  • Particularly beautiful grain
  • Annual rings often have a gray and greenish border
  • Pore rings very dense in young wood
  • Loosely distributed in older wood
  • Use in furniture construction, paneling, veneers, parquet, small home accessories
Source: Achim Raschka, Wood prunus avium, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Mahogany (Meliaceae)

  • No native wood
  • Sapwood coloring yellowish-grey or light grey
  • Heartwood basically light, often reddish to dark reddish brown
  • Turns dark brown in color when exposed to light
  • Medium to large pores, fine rays
  • Grain predominantly alternately twisted
  • Use in window construction, for cladding, furniture, frame constructions

Walnut (Juglans regia)

  • Usually wood from the walnut family
  • Heartwood from walnut matt brownish to shimmering black
  • Outer sapwood is whitish to pink-grey in colour
  • Wood colors vary depending on the tree, location and age
  • Grain growth, coloring and structure partly wild
  • Annual rings clearly visible
  • Used for woodturning, furniture, veneer

Teak (Tectona grandis)

  • Teak, a pure import wood
  • Rather light sapwood, whitish to light grey
  • Often very broad in young trees
  • Dark golden brown heartwood, darkens with exposure to air
  • Straight grain with uneven, coarse texture
  • High weather resistance, flame retardant
  • Use in furniture and ship building, windows, door frames, terraces, panels, arts and crafts

Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)

  • Cedar sapwood very light, almost white
  • Heartwood basically light brown to reddish brown
  • Large color differences between early and late wood
  • Clearly visible growth rings
  • Depending on the species, the fibers are straight or very irregular
  • Use for parquet, less often as construction timber, in interior design or for furniture production

Tip: The tannins in cedar are special because they react with iron. The wood can turn bluish-grey, but this is only a visual impairment.

Source: Philipp Zinger, Lebanon Cedar, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

frequently asked Questions

What can affect the coloring of the wood?

The color is mainly influenced by the influence of light, temperature, humidity and location as well as by different treatment methods.

Are there color differences within one type of wood?

Color differences, even within one type of wood, are part of the natural properties of wood, like differences in grain and structure, and in no way represent a quality defect.

Which wood colors can be combined well?

Warm and light wood colors such as birch and maple can be combined very well with each other. Even dark colors such as cherry, oak or walnut go wonderfully together. A similar color cast is important, not necessarily the same color. Another clue is the grain. For example, woods with a similarly coarse grain can be excellently combined.

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