What is ‘wood’ – An anatomical re-definition

Schweingruber, Fritz Hans; Büntgen, Ulf (2013). What is ‘wood’ – An anatomical re-definition. Dendrochronologia, 31(3), pp. 187-191. Elsevier 10.1016/j.dendro.2013.04.003

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

The technical definition of ‘wood’ is well accepted, but its botanical understanding remains vague. Different degrees and amounts of lignification in plants and their imprecise description, together with a conceptually doubtful life form catalog including trees, shrubs and herbs further complicate our understanding of ‘wood’. Here, we use permanent micro sections to demonstrate that the xylem and bark of terrestrial plants can vary from one tissue with a few lignified cells to an almost fully lignified tissue. This universal principle of plant growth and stabilization, accounting for all taxonomic units within vascular plants, suggests that the classical life form separation into herbs, shrubs and trees is not valid. An anatomical-based differentiation between ‘wood’, ‘woody’ and ‘woodiness’ is also only meaningful if supplemented by insight on the particular plant section and its lignified proportion. We therefore recommend utilizing the botanically more neutral term ‘stem anatomy’ instead of ‘wood anatomy’, which further implies integration of the xylem and bark of all terrestrial plants. Since dendrochronology considers shrubs, dwarf shrubs and perennial herbs in addition to trees, its semantic expansion toward ‘xylemchronology’ might be worthwhile considering.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Büntgen, Ulf


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
900 History > 910 Geography & travel








Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

25 Sep 2014 14:54

Last Modified:

25 Sep 2014 14:54

Publisher DOI:




Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback