Page Update: 2006 12 27

  1. Canadian Trees: Sugar Maple ..... by Doug Denton
  2. Birds eye and Spalted Maple ..... by James Colter
  3. Canadian Trees: Beech ..... by Doug Denton
  4. Canadian Trees: Yellow Birch ..... by Doug Denton
  5. Yellow Birch: The Wood ..... by James Colter
  6. Tanteak - (Teak and Pine) Trinidad and Tobago ..... by James Colter
  7. Canadian Trees: Yew ..... by Bruce Fairchild



Supplied by Doug Denton

Other names: Hard Maple, Rock Maple, Black Maple, Curly Maple, Bird's-eye Maple

The sugar maple is one of the tallest hardwoods in Canada, sometimes reaching a height of 130 feet and a diameter of 5 feet, with an average of 80 to 90 feet in height and 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The trunk is usually long and straight in the forest and short and branched in the open. The crown of slender, mostly ascending branches is compact and regular.

The species ranges from southern Newfoundland to the lake of the woods in Ontario. Sugar Maple requires moist rich well-drained soils for best development and will not do well on a poor site. It occurs in pure stands, also with red spruce, white spruce and balsam firs and with such hardwoods as beech, yellow birch, oak red maple, basswood, ironwood and hickory.

The sugar maple is one of the most conspicuous features of the Eastern Canadian woods in autumn, its leaves turning to brilliant shades of deep red, scarlet, golden-orange, and bright yellow.

The sugar maple is one of the most valuable commercial hardwoods in Canada, and is especially desirable where strength and resistance to wear are necessary. The 'Bird's-eye" and "curly grain" figures are in great demand. Typical uses are for furniture, veneer, flooring, boxes and crates. The sap is the principle source of maple syrup and maple sugar.

Bird's Eye and Spalted Maple

by James Colter

What causes the bird's eye pattern in the maple, which is seen in some lumber and veneers of mostly red and sugar maples? To begin with, it is not the peckings of a wood pecker into actively growing tissue or for that matter flies or other insects, nor is it the buds or suckers which became dormant and incorporated into the wood.

The real culprit is a fungus which feeds on the cells under the bark, causing numerous depressions in the wood.

Some other species also exhibit that type of rare deformity, making these veneers quite valuable. The only other one I can remember off hand is Birch.       (There is also a Bird's Eye Pine - from Teena Hubbard)

Spalted Maple, on the other hand, although also created by a fungus, the fungus attacks the tree after it is dead or cut into logs, working in channels of weaker wood first, giving a sort of striped appearance to the veneer. Since the tree is dead, insects (beetles) usually take advantage of the fungus further weakening the wood, and bore along these pathways. It may also be called wormy maple. The uses for this type of veneer are, of course, quite limited in the commercial world, but spalted maple, with its varied colours, makes excellent skies in a picture.

Rosewood. It's name is not from the colours, nor is it from a rose bush. The name is derived from the odour of the wood when freshly cut.


Submitted by Doug Denton.

The beech is a medium to large tree 70 to 80 feet in height and 2 to 4 feet in diameter. The trunk is usually straight and erect when grown in a dense stand on a fertile site, and rises to a good height before branching into a broad shallow crown. Elsewhere, on poor sites and in the open, the trunk is much shorter, often crooked, and breaks up not far from the ground into a dense, massive crown of wide-spreading branches which are tough and flexible. In Canada the beech is found throughout the hardwood region from Cape Bretton Island to the North Shore of Georgian Bay, but it does not grow as far north as the yellow birch or sugar maple. It is commonly found on rich bottom-lands and moist, well drained slopes of limited extent, but is usually mixed with other native hardwoods.

The clean, smooth, close-fitting, light blue-grey bark of the trunk has made this tree one of the best known wherever it occurs. Except when young, it is rarely mistaken for any other tree, even in the winter.

The wood is used for flooring, furniture. small turnery and woodenware. Beech is the only wood used in the filtering process of vinegar manufacture.

Beech is a handsome shade tree and bears edible beechnuts, which are consumed in large quantities by wildlife, especially squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks and birds.


by Doug Denton

The Yellow Birch is the largest of our native birches and sometimes reaches a height of 100 feet and a diameter of 3 or 4 feet. The average tree is 60 to 75 feet high and 2 feet in diameter. In the forest the trunk is long and straight and has a small amount of taper, and supports a short, relatively narrow crown. In the open, the branch system is wide, but the central stem is still fairly well defined.

Yellow Birch is found from the Maritime provinces and Southern Newfoundland to Lake Superior and beyond to the Lake of the Woods in Ontario. It grows on a wide range of sites from rich, moist bottom lands to the drier soils of hilltops and ridges. Its more important associates are spruce, balsam, hemlock, beech and maple.

Yellow Birch takes its name from its shiny yellowish silvery grey bark. On a young tree it is smooth, but as the tree ages the bark peels into papery curls. On very old trees the bark may become almost black.

Yellow Birch is one of the most important hardwood trees in Canada. The wood is used extensively for plywood, veneer, furniture and flooring.


by James Colter

For those ordering the wood, I like to give the Latin name, so as to eliminate all doubt and confusion over local names. The Yellow Birch is known as Betula alleghaniensis. Its former Latin name (to reinstate confusion) was Betula lutea. The species alleghaniensis, as the name suggests, is from its location which is the Alleghany Mountains.

The other predominant species of Birch in Canada is the White birch, which has a more northern range than the Yellow. I had both species on my lot, and both were susceptible to defoliation by leaf miners despite treatment for many years with Cygon 2E. The White birch, a larger tree was not as hard hit, but was the first to die.

The wood

The wood of the Yellow Birch is valued in building and veneers. It is fine-grained often with a pleasing reddish colour, and frequently shows a wavy or curly grain. The most common forms of the veneer are rotary and plain sliced, and the colour range is most often cream coloured and is from the sapwood. See Sample. Would you like to compare this sample to some White Birch (Paper Birch)? You don't have any? Take a look at your wooden toothpick. For a larger sample, eat a popsicle. These samples are the exclusive domain of the white birch. (Disregard the grape, orange or cherry stains for colouring) Because of its tight grain, this wood takes a high polish and outside of marquetry, can be stained to imitate more expensive woods. White birch is used more for turnery and small woodenware.

Some uses of yellow birch in marquetry may include using it for sky. It's slightly wavy grain can be used in 'busy' pictures where a 'detailed' sky would tend to detract or overcomplicate a picture. One advantage is that this wood often comes in large sheets. The wood is also easily worked with the knife. I have also learned to use it in place of maple when I want a plain background, after suffering from maple splitting or developing cracks during dry Canadian winters.

TANTEAK - Trinidad and Tobago

edited by James Colter

Teak is one of the world's rain forest tree, and is harvested for its valuable timber. In an era where rain forest depletion is a growing concern, one company/country is reversing that trend.

This particular company is staging to, in the next few years, become a major exporter of timber products of both pine and teak, from state-owned plantations. These plantations are efficiently managed through silviculture, and do not pose unpleasant marketing issues - as in the case of many African broad-leaf timbers from the natural rain forest. Checks and balances in this regulated system provide for self-sufficiency and perpetuation. (The government acts as both buyer and seller of raw materials)

The company is Tanteak - Trinidad and Tobago Forest Products Company Limited Incorporated, incorporated in 1975 as the sole entity to manage the state-owned plantations of 22,500 acres (9,000) hectares, which represents the largest teak cultivation in the Western Hemisphere. Some 360 acres or 150 hectares are planted annually.


In 1913, the first seeds of Teak (Tectona Grandis) were imported from Tenesserim, Burma, and cultivated.


Teak is planted extensively in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, but in the Western Hemisphere, it has been grown most successfully in Trinidad. The particular species of teak that was cultivated is highly noted for its figures and irregularity of grain, which are enhanced by the distribution of red and black streaks that are common along the longitudinal surfaces, relieving the surface of its uniformity.


Teak is often called the "Diamond of Lumber", due to its insect-resistant properties, abilities to withstand extremes of weather, durability and beauty. Teak takes nails and screws fairly well and glues moderately well, despite its oily nature. Its bending properties vary from poor to good. It is used in laboratories and chemical plants for benches and other fixtures due to its high resistance to acids. It is used for kitchen and bathroom fixtures due to its resistance to moisture. Although many substitutes have been tried, teak is still used for decking on naval vessels


In 1950, Pine (Pinus Caribaea) was also introduced to Trinidad.


This is one of the principle cone-bearing coniferous trees of the Caribbean region. This species grows in the Bahamas Islands, Western Cuba and the Isle of Pines, and in Central America from British Honduras to Eastern Guatemala, Northern Honduras and North-eastern Nicaragua. The optimum development of Caribbean pine occurs in North Eastern Nicaragua between Rio Grande and Rio Prinzapolca.


The tree attains a height of 100 feet with a base corresponding diameter of 3 feet. It is suitable for the same purpose as other pitch pines are used.

TANTEAK - The company

In 1975, the company started its first production of producing split fencing, fence posts and some lumber from small thinnings. On August 1st of 1978, the company started its first commercial harvest of the teak forest, producing teak and teak products, and in 1990, the first dimensional stock was exported to the UK Tanteak currently exports to Canada, US, UK, Caribbean and as far east as Hong Kong, in an ever-growing market.

What is dimensional stock? Dimensional stock is the trade name for dimensional stock teak sawn lumber, and consists of shorts ranging from 3-feet to 6-feet, and ultra shorts 1-2½ feet long and 3-5 inches across, and is demanded international as a special quality with no defects. This is the prime grade used for the production of furniture. It is shipped at 1/8" oversize at cross-sectional and ½" oversized at length to compensate for volume loss for moisture.

The current output of Tanteak is about 60% Teak and 40% Pine with some other species. A major expansion program was undertaken in 1990, to be completed in three stages running into 1993, with a 4th stage - a future veneer slicing plant planned, and a fifth stage - particle board plant on hold. Waste is further minimized by the building of a parquet flooring plant, and glulam plant which can utilize small pieces. Sawdust and shavings are used for poultry, other farms and horticulture.

Photo of a Glulam Press (51K)

Beyond 1993 there are plans for a veneer slicing plant to go into the works.

Source: Tanteak Today - Supplement of the March 22, 1992 Sunday Guardian, National newspaper of Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad & Tobago Forest Products Company Limited, Connector Road, Carlsen Field, Chaguanas, Trinidad, West Indies.

The lightest wood is Aeschynomene Hispida, found in Cuba, which has a specific gravity of 0.044 and a weight of only 2¾ lbs. per cubic foot.


by Bruce Fairchild

In churchyards and cemeteries across Europe and the United Kingdom stands the densely needled evergreen called Yew. The seeds of its fruit and withering foliage contain poison, which, was considered fatally toxic in Shakespeare's time. In Macbeth, " slips of yew" are part of the witches' brew. Yew was discovered in this country on the west coast in the 1800's. Yew veneer is a golden orange streaked with purple, mauve and brown patches, with veins, knots and clusters of in-grown bark.

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