What are the Most Common Hardwood Trees?

Hardwood trees have a coated and protected seed, like an acorn. The classification of a coating is far-reaching. Trees producing fruits as well as those producing nuts are hardwoods.

All hardwood trees are flowering trees, or angiosperms. Ultimately, hardwoods are deciduous trees that bear fruits and lose their leaves annually. There is a limited number of species that are evergreens.

Hardwoods are denser than softwoods. Also, hardwoods have a prominent grain because of the pores in the wood. Hardwoods are much more resilient to the elements compared to softwoods. Most hardwoods grow slowly and are more difficult to find. 

To learn more about the differences between hardwood trees and softwood trees, Read More.

The Most Common Hardwood Tree Families

The most common hardwood genera of trees are grouped in 8 families.

  1. Holly Family (Aquifoliaceae) - This contains the genus - Holly (Ilex)
  2. Birch Family (Betulaceae) - This includes the genera - Alder (Alnus), Birch (Betula), Hornbeam (Carpinus), Hazel (Corylus)
  3. Beech Family (Fagaceae) - This includes the genera - Chestnut (Castanea), Beech (Fagus), Oak (Quercus)
  4. Olive Family (Oleaceae) - This contains the genus - Ash (Fraxinus) 
  5. Rose Family (Rosaceae) - This includes the genera - Hawthorne (Crataegus), Apple (Malus), Pear (Pyrus), Rowans (sorbus)
  6. Willow Family (Salicaceae) - This includes the genera - Poplars and Aspens (Populus), Willow (Salix)
  7. Soapberry Family (Sapindaceae) - This includes the genera - Maple (Acer), Horse Chestnut (Aesculus)
  8. Elm Family (Ulmaceae) - This contains the genus - Elm (Ulmus)

You may be wondering what a tree family, genera or a genus is, if you are, read this article here

The Holly Family (Aquifoliaceae)

The Aquifoliaceae family contains only one genus. This genus is known as the Ilex genus. Overall, there are over 560 species in this genus. The holly family is an old family of trees and shrubs with fossil evidence dating back to the Tertiary period. With so many species, the family is vastly diverse. The range of sizes and shapes is massive.

The Main Holly Family Genus

Holly (Ilex) 

Holly Tree

The holly tree grows in almost all climates and thrives. They do not live long lives, often only reaching 100 years old. All in all, the holly tree carries distinctive features such as thick, glossy dark-green leaves and the notable red berry. These red berries are known as holly berries and hold great significance in many cultures. Although berries only grow on female holly trees.

Ultimately, the holly tree is an easy tree to grow that would be a lovely addition to any yard or garden.

To learn more about the Holly Tree, Read More.

 The Birch Family (Betulaceae)

In total, the Betulaceae family contains six genera. The genera total of over 160 species. Most of the species in this family grow in the Northern Hemisphere, but several species travel below the equator. With over 70 million years of existence, the Betulaceae family grows across the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Also, both catkins and flowers grow on these trees and produce a lot of pollen to plague those allergy sufferers. The wood from these trees is tough and can withstand significant use and wear.

The most commonly known species in the family are gray birch (Betula populifolia), American hazel (Corylus americana), and the black alder (Alnus glutinosa).

The Main Birch Family Genera

Alder (Alnus) 

Alder Tree

Alder trees thrive near water. Notably, butterflies find alder trees to be a delicious meal. Alder trees add significant nutrients to the soil and allow many other species of plants to exist near them. In fact, barren lands become fertile after an alder tree grows there.

Alder trees support ecosystems with their nitrogen-rich root system. If you are ever in a survival situation, the leaves of the alder tree will give you a lot of protein but are not the most pleasant tasting. Additionally, the height of this genus ranges from 50 to 100 feet. Some of these species grow in South America and thrive in that climate. The wood from the alder tree is rarely used except in high end situations.

To learn more about the Alder Tree, Read More.

Birch (Betula) 

Birch Trees

We know the birch tree mostly for its striking white bark. However, the Aspen also has white bark and is easily confused for a birch tree. Like the alder tree, birch trees are pioneering trees. Oftentimes, the birch tree will root in barren lands and they grow quickly.

Additionally, they spread quickly, creating an ecosystem that supports both plant and animal life. With approximately 50 species in this genus, the birch tree grows abundantly in North America.

All in all, some species exist in Europe and Asia, but North America claims the most by far. Because of the incredibly fast growth rate of the birch, most trees will only live for 50 years. This lifespan is shortened outside of natural situations, such as a yard or garden.

To learn more about the Birch Tree, Read More.

Hornbeam (Carpinus) 

Hornbeam Trees

While not as well-known as its cousins, the hornbeam genus still contains over 50 species. However, only four species grow outside of Asia. On the other hand, the hornbeam tree is also a prominent supporter of its environment. Many bugs, birds, and larvae depend on the hornbeam.

Keeping with the theme of white, the lumber of the hornbeam holds a beautiful, smooth white coloring. The heart wood from the hornbeam is so strong that we rarely use it in construction because it is so difficult to work with. There are some applications for tool handles and carving boards, but those are limited. Finally, the hornbeam is a short tree. Most species only climb to 40 feet tall. Furthermore, the hornbeam is semi-evergreen.

To learn more about the Hornbeam Tree, Read More.

Hazel (Corylus) 

hazel tree

Hazel trees are one of the first trees to bloom every spring. Likely, your early spring allergies are caused by the hazel tree. There are less than 20 species in the hazel genus. From the hazel trees comes the hazelnut. In fact, the hazelnut is a beloved snack around the world and is the primary ingredient in the peanut substitute spread of Nutella.

While hornbeam wood is stout, the wood of the hazel tree is easy to work with. Moreover, it regenerates every few years with a fresh crop to harvest. However, the hazel tree is rather short with a narrow trunk, giving us limited applications for the lumber from it. Overall, these trees need a mild climate and do not sustain cold weather well.

To learn more about the Hazel Tree, Read More.

The Beech Family (Fagaceae)

The beech family of Fagaceae is a large family. With over 900 species and 8 genera, beech trees can vary significantly in both shape and size. While the species in temperate regions are deciduous, the tropical species are usually evergreen trees. Oak, beech, and chestnut trees are all part of the Fagaceae family.

We use the lumber from the beech family for many residential applications. Furthermore, the lumber from the beech family makes great lumber for floors, cabinets, and furniture.

The Northern Hemisphere from Asia to North America boasts trees from the beautiful beech family. Often standing side by side, the beech family will fill a forest.

The Main Beech Family Genera

Chestnut (Castanea) 

Chestnut Trees - What Should I know

Chestnut trees are in terrible danger of extinction in North America. The chestnuts from the chestnut tree are a hugely profitable business. However, the American species was decimated by the chestnut blight, a disease that has been attacking the trees since the early 1900s. Some trees in North America are immune to the chestnut blight and they are all that is left standing today.

The European and Asian markets are booming with chestnuts, but the American population consumes more of the product than they can ever produce. All in all, there are only four species of chestnut trees on the planet, and they are all separated by geography. Some chestnut trees grow close to 100 feet, but the farmed species stand only at 50 feet.

To learn more about the Chestnut Tree, Read More.

Beech (Fagus) 

Copper Beach TRee

The beech tree grows expansively across the Northern Hemisphere. However, there are only 13 species in this genus. These trees grow large and beautiful, but grow at a slow rate. With bright green leaves, the beech tree makes a wonderful addition to your backyard. In fact, the European beech will keep canopy throughout the winter months.

The beech tree produces beech nuts that many consider an excellent snack. Some species of beech tree live for over 400 years. Sadly, a shallow root system makes them highly susceptible to wind and water damage. Finally, the wood from the beech tree is the best wood to burn for a fire. It scores an excellent burn rate.

To learn more about the Beech Tree, Read More.

Oak (Quercus)

Oak Trees - What should I know

There are many species of oak trees. That is to say, there are over 600 species. It is also the most common type of tree in North America. Also, they produce acorns and are easy to grow for an amateur arborist from that acorn. Oak is a versatile wood used all throughout the industry for both furniture and wood. It has a beautiful finish and is rot resistant. For the most part, oak is one of the most popular hardwoods used for furniture and construction.

To learn more about the Oak Tree, Read More.

The Olive Family (Oleaceae) 

The Oleaceae contains 28 genera, many of which are uncommon and locally secluded. The number of species assigned to this family is difficult to pin down, with many estimates existing. Although, the estimates all seem to average around 700 species. Many of the species bloom beautiful flowers with lovely scents. One genus of trees that produce a wonderful scent are jasmine shrubs. Naturally, olive trees are part of the Oleaceae family. The family grows across the Northern Hemisphere and into southern Asia and Australia.

Many of the species are restricted to certain locations but are believed to have been more widespread in ancient times. Over time, geographical barriers separated the species and alienated them from others of its kind.

Farmers can make a significant profit from the trees in this family. Olive trees produce olives that sought after for many applications of cooking. The other odoriferous plants are also desired for spices and scents.

The Main Olive Family Genus

Ash (Fraxinus) 

ash tree

The ash tree, while striking, is under great threat from the emerald ash borer. Since the 1980s, this threat killed millions of trees. Even so, we seek ash wood for baseball bats, tools, and guitars. Most species are deciduous, but some are evergreen. Ash trees produce seeds that look like helicopters and are locally called “whirly birds”. With between 45 and 65 species belonging to this genus, there is a lot of variety in the genus. Typically, ash trees grow 2 feet a year and reach maturity around 50 feet tall.

To learn more about the Ash Tree, Read More.

The Rose Family (Rosaceae) 

Maybe one of the largest families, the Rosaceae family, contains 91 genera and almost 5000 species. Most fruit-bearing trees such as apple and pear are part of this family. Additionally, raspberries, peaches, plums, strawberries, apricots, and even almonds are part of the Rosaceae family.

This family is concentrated in the Northern Hemisphere but grows on 6 of the 7 continents. All regions are safe for these species except for deserts and extreme tropical environments.

Many species in this family grow flowers of great beauty. Furthermore, the fruits bore from these trees are highly edible and sought after by humans and animals alike. Major economical markets exist based on this tree family alone.

The Main Rose Family Genera

Hawthorn (Crataegus)

Hawthorn Tree

The hawthorn trees are usually used in hedgerows and as ornamental pieces. The canopy is thick, and the tree is short. Ultimately, the leaves grow very tightly, making this a perfect hedge for privacy. Additionally, it is usually covered in thorns. Birds depend upon the berries of the hawthorn tree because they are the only berries still around in winter. Many cultures turn the berries into jams and jellies to last through the cold winters, as well. While the species count is uncertain amongst botanists, there are likely over 1000 species of hawthorn trees. Some hawthorns live for over 700 years.

To learn more about the Hawthorn Tree, Read More.

Apple (Malus)

Apple Trees

We grow apple trees for their delicious fruits they bear. There are many varieties and apple farmers are crossing species to try new breeds. Apple trees need to cross-pollinate. Therefore, you cannot plant just one apple tree. They thrive in climates where winters are cold, and summers are humid and hot. Apple lumber is best used for finer furniture and tools. It is a wonderful wood but can be difficult to work with because it is so dense. By and large, it is rare to use wood from an apple tree because of the benefits of the fruit it bears.

To learn more about the Apple Tree, Read More.

Pear (Pyrus)

pear tree

Pear trees grow across the Northern Hemisphere and further stretch to portions of Africa and Asia in the Southern Hemisphere. All in all, pear trees are medium-sized and there are over 3000 varieties of pears. Some varieties are edible and delicious to humans while others are inedible. Typically, farmers will harvest pears in the late summer before apple harvesting begins. With a large profit in the pear crop itself, pear lumber is rarely used. On average, the world uses close to 23.1 million tons of pears every year. However, pears are mostly water, close to 85% and are not as nutrient packed as other fruits.

To learn more about the Pear Tree, Read More.

Rowan (Sorbus)

Rowan Tree

Rowan trees are part of the rose family. Therefore, they produce a delicious fruit. In ancient times, many cultures used the fruit of the rowan tree. The raw berries may lead to an upset stomach but cooking and freezing will remove the toxicity. Nowadays, most of the species are in the Himalayas.

These trees are small, with a maximum height of 60 feet. Also, striking flowers grow on the rowan tree and are usually white. Unlike some of the other trees in this family, the rowan tree has more applications. In some cultures, the rowan tree wards off witches.

To learn more about the Rowan Tree, Read More.

The Willow Family (Salicaceae)

The willows, poplars, aspens, and cottonwoods make up the Salicaceae family. With 56 genera and over 1200 species, the willow family is large. Even though these are flowering trees, the flowers are small and unimpressive.

Unlike many others, the willow family contains trees that grow easily from shoots planted in the ground. The trees take very easily in damp soil and typically demand a lot of water. Willow trees specifically grow along water banks, creating ample ecosystems along the riverbank.

The Main Willow Family Genera

Poplars and Aspens (Populus)

stand of aspen trees

Photo by form PxHere

Dependent on your location, you will refer to these trees as poplars or aspens. Aspens sport a white bark just like the birch tree. Uniquely, aspens create colonies and depend on each other for strength and sustainability. Even if parts of the colony are killed, the other parts continue to thrive. A deep root system makes these trees very difficult to kill by forest fire. From the ashes, the aspen will sprout again.

However, while forest fires are not an issue, lack of sun can be. Aspen trees demand a high level of sunlight and grow tall canopies to absorb it. Furthermore, aspen leaves grow at an unusual angle, which makes them incredibly noisy even with the slightest breeze.

To learn more about Poplars and Aspens, Read More.

Willow (Salix)

willow trees

We use willow trees in many applications, including medicine. Scientists derive salicin from certain willow trees and part of many pain relievers. Moreover, willow trees grow all over the Northern Hemisphere. Depending on the species of willow, they can grow just about anywhere.

We can find willows throughout the tundra and even along riverbanks. At the present time, we mostly use the wood from a willow tree in smaller applications like crates, broom handles, and sweat lodges.

To learn more about the Willow Tree, Read More.

The Soapberry Family (Sapindaceae)

The Sapindaceae family contains almost 2000 species within over 130 genera. Usually found in temperate regions, the trees in this family produce saps we can use. Some of the sap turns into latex or soap while others are manufactured into maple syrup. Moreover, most of the continents can claim at least one species of this family.

Some trees produce nuts and fruits. Furthermore, the animals and birds depend on the produce from these trees. Unlike some of the other fruit trees, we use some of the lumber from these trees for residential and commercial purposes. Maple is highly sought after for floors and furniture.

The Main Soapberry Family Genera

Maple (Acer)

Acer & Maple Trees

Maple trees are abundant in the Northern Hemisphere, but most often found in China. Maple trees are likely most known for the sticky sap we use to make maple syrup. Maple syrup is a delicious topping or addition to recipes. Also, we primarily use the lumber from maple trees for furniture. It has a beautiful grain and is durable. There are about 30 varieties of maple trees. Every species in the genus has leaves that change to a splendid hue in autumn. 

To learn more about the Maple Tree, Read More.

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus)

Horse Chestnut Tree

The horse chestnut tree is native to the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, it is not related to the chestnut tree at all. Beautiful flowers grow on these trees in an array of colors. The genus contains both deciduous and evergreen trees. While many cultures consume horse chestnuts, they are mildly toxic.

However, the variants grown in Northern United States are not toxic to humans. Buckeyes as they are called, are a lovely and sweet snack. That being said, horse chestnuts are easy to grow and grow rather quickly.

To learn more about the Horse Chestnut Tree, Read More.

The Elm Family (Ulmaceae)

Elm trees grow in temperate regions of the world. Generally speaking, the leaves are simple with smooth. The Ulmaceae is highly used for lumber.

With only 45 species and 6 genera, the Ulmaceae family is small. Elm trees themselves are large and beautiful. Many people plant them for ornamental uses as they create vast canopies of shade.

The elm family keeps a lot of moisture making it durable under water. However, diseases plague this family.

The Main Elm Family Genus

Elm (Ulmus)

elm tree

We grow elm trees for both the heights they reach as well as their attractive canopies. Elm lumber is durable underwater. This has made it the leading choice for boat construction. Farmers also use this durability to construct their various barns and buildings. One issue facing the elm tree is the Dutch elm disease. All elm trees are susceptible to this devastating disease that is spread by bark beetles. Overall, the bark beetles have decimated the elm population in both North America and Europe.

To learn more about the Elm Tree, Read More.

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