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Compression Wood vs. Tension Wood: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Compression Wood is a denser, abnormal growth in softwood trees under mechanical stress, whereas Tension Wood is a less dense, fibrous growth in hardwoods under similar stress.
Compression Wood vs. Tension Wood

Key Differences

Compression Wood forms on the lower side of branches and leaning stems in conifers, characterized by its high density and darker color, due to stress or gravity. Tension Wood, in contrast, develops on the upper side of hardwood branches and leaning stems, featuring gelatinous fibers and lighter color, as a response to similar mechanical forces.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 15, 2023
The cellular structure of Compression Wood differs significantly from normal wood, with more rounded and less organized cells, leading to its increased density and mechanical strength. Tension Wood's cells, however, are more elongated and contain a specific type of cellulose, giving it unique flexibility and strength properties.
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In terms of chemical composition, Compression Wood has higher lignin and lower cellulose content compared to normal wood. Tension Wood, on the other hand, has higher cellulose content, especially a type called G-layer, which contributes to its unique tensile strength.
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Compression Wood can cause issues in timber quality, leading to warping and reduced wood value. Tension Wood also affects timber quality but is less problematic than Compression Wood, as it causes less distortion.
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Dec 15, 2023
Both Compression Wood and Tension Wood are adaptive responses of trees to mechanical stress or damage. However, Compression Wood is more common in gymnosperms (softwoods), while Tension Wood predominantly occurs in angiosperms (hardwoods).
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Comparison Chart

Tree Type

Common in softwoods (gymnosperms)
Found in hardwoods (angiosperms)
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Location of Growth

Lower side of branches/leaning stems
Upper side of branches/leaning stems
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Density

Higher density
Lower density
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Cellular Structure

Rounded, disorganized cells
Elongated cells with specialized cellulose
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Impact on Timber

Causes warping, reduces quality
Less distortion, affects quality differently
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Compression Wood and Tension Wood Definitions

Compression Wood

It forms on the lower side of branches or leaning trunks in conifers.
The underside of the sloped branch showed signs of Compression Wood.
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Tension Wood

Contains a special type of cellulose, giving it unique tensile strength.
The Tension Wood's strength was attributed to its unique cellulose composition.
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Compression Wood

Known for causing warping and issues in timber processing.
The presence of Compression Wood in the logs led to challenges during milling.
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Tension Wood

Tension Wood is less dense, with a high cellulose content.
The lighter, fibrous area in the wood sample was identified as Tension Wood.
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Compression Wood

Compression Wood has a higher lignin content and is darker than normal wood.
The dark rings in the lumber were identified as Compression Wood.
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Tension Wood

An adaptive, fibrous growth in hardwoods responding to stress.
The oak tree's response to the leaning angle was the formation of Tension Wood.
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Compression Wood

Compression Wood has a characteristic rounded cell structure.
Under the microscope, the Compression Wood's rounded cells were clearly visible.
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Tension Wood

Develops on the upper side of hardwood branches and stems.
Tension Wood was evident on the upper part of the bent maple branch.
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Compression Wood

Abnormal, dense growth in softwoods due to mechanical stress.
The leaning pine tree developed Compression Wood to maintain its stability.
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Tension Wood

Affects timber quality differently, causing less distortion than Compression Wood.
While Tension Wood was present in the lumber, it did not affect its usability as much as Compression Wood.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What characterizes Tension Wood?

It's a fibrous, less dense wood growth in hardwoods, formed in response to stress.
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Dec 15, 2023

How does Compression Wood affect lumber quality?

It can cause warping and reduces the quality of timber.
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Dec 15, 2023

What is Compression Wood?

It's a dense, abnormal wood growth in softwoods due to mechanical stress.
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Where is Tension Wood typically found?

On the upper side of hardwood branches and stems.
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Where does Compression Wood usually form?

On the lower side of branches and leaning stems in softwoods.
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What causes the formation of Compression Wood?

Mechanical stress or gravity acting on softwood trees.
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Is Compression Wood easy to identify?

Yes, due to its higher density and darker color.
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What leads to the development of Tension Wood?

Similar stressors as Compression Wood, but in hardwood trees.
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What about the chemical composition of Tension Wood?

It has a higher cellulose content, especially a special type called G-layer.
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Can both types of wood be found in the same tree?

Generally, no. Compression Wood is in softwoods and Tension Wood in hardwoods.
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What role does Tension Wood play in a tree's growth?

It helps the tree adapt to mechanical stress and maintain structural integrity.
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Can Compression Wood be used in construction?

Its use is limited due to warping and quality issues.
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Can Compression Wood be prevented?

Not entirely, as it's a natural response to environmental conditions.
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Does Tension Wood impact timber quality?

Yes, but usually less severely than Compression Wood.
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What is the main difference in the cellular structure of Compression Wood and Tension Wood?

Compression Wood has rounded cells, while Tension Wood has elongated cells with specialized cellulose.
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How does Compression Wood affect tree growth?

It can lead to asymmetrical growth and stability issues in the tree.
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How is Tension Wood identified?

By its lighter color and fibrous texture.
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Does Compression Wood have any unique chemical properties?

Yes, higher lignin and lower cellulose content.
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Can the formation of Tension Wood be controlled?

Like Compression Wood, it's largely dependent on external stress factors.
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Is Tension Wood suitable for woodworking?

It can be used, but with considerations for its unique properties.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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