Hardwood is timber from mainly dicot species. These are generally located in tropical and sub-tropical forests. In boreal and sub-boreal latitudes they tend to be annual, but in humid and tropical regions usually evergreen.
Hardwood is distinguished from softwood by its greater amount of durability and resistance to insects and decay. It is said that, before the tree produces its long fibres, the first set of its leaves develop into scales, which protect it from insects. This is why the term hardwood can sometimes be misleading. Softwood does not have this protective coating. The term softwood, therefore, describes the timber with similar protection but with less fibres.
Hardwood differs from softwood in that it contains deeper interior pores. The reason for this is that the inside of the tree gets more light and thus more nutrients as well as air as there are more air cells. This process can accelerate the rate at which the trees produce timber, making it denser and stronger. The reason that softwood does not have such deep interiors is that some insects and certain pests attack on the inner bark where there are no interiors. The timber, therefore, tends to be more vulnerable to attack from disease and insects, whereas hardwood remain intact.
Hardwood has different levels of hardness according to different parts of the world. Western hardwood (or oak) is considered as the softwood in North America, UK and most of Western Europe, while sub-tropical hardwood (or pine) is the most appropriate for tropical and sub-tropical conditions. Based on the hardness of the wood, the density of the wood is also measured. For example, the harder woods have a higher density. There are many manufacturers who specialize in creating fine hardwood furniture from this type of wood.
There are two types of hardwood, the soft and the hard types. The softwoods produce seeds, but the tree produces these seeds after it grows and attains maturity. These seeds are smaller than those produced by the hardwood trees, hence the term “softwood” is also used. Hardwood trees produce nuts, which are a bit bigger in size.
There are several reasons why some hardwood trees are considered as better than the others. One is that most of the hardwood trees are actually hybrids. The Hybrid species are considered to be a cross-breed between two different trees; this helps to save resources because only the pure species are saved. Another reason why some species are considered better than the others is because the hybrids are able to tolerate various kinds of weather and climate, unlike the pure species. A third reason is because they are able to handle the different kind of treatments that other types of timber may need.