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What is latewood?

Q:

I overheard my hardwood dealer speaking to a customer about “latewood.” I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, but I’m unfamiliar with the term. What is latewood?
—Ron Altier, West Lafayette, Ohio

A:

Ron, the terms latewood and earlywood refer to the different densities of wood produced in a tree in the course of a year’s growth. Early in the growing season, in the wet spring, a tree grows rapidly, producing large-vessel cells. As water becomes more scarce later in the season, the tree’s growth slows, producing smaller cells. Year after year, this pattern creates the tree’s growth rings, the earlywood generally showing up as the more porous, lightly colored wood, and the latewood as the darker, tighter-grained wood.

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