Wood Identification

Find out how to identify wood samples using features of their cells and tissues visible only under the microscope.

A microscopic  scan of Turraeanthus africana wood

Under the microscope, any wood shows a number of distinctive characteristics determined by the growth pattern of the tree which produced it.

Using light and electron microscopes to examine thin sections of wood, Kew’s wood anatomists study the structure of individual cells and their arrangement within stems and roots.

Their research pinpoints the features of wood that can be used to identify materials from a variety of sources, such as archaeological specimens, forensic samples or newly imported timbers.

During this one-week course, tutors will demonstrate effective methods of recognising the distinguishing features of woods from different tree species.

Who is the course designed for? 

Botanists, biodiversity conservation professionals, archaeologists, conservators, furniture and picture restorers, and workers in forensic science and allied professions. 

How is the course taught? 

Course participants will look at many different types of wood to find out how to distinguish between them using features of their cells and tissues visible only under the microscope.

Class sizes are small, typically ten/twelve participants. 

The course will include the following:

  • Detailed study of wood structure for both hardwoods and softwoods using light microscopy.  
  • Methods used for the identification of wood including keys, tables, atlases, computer systems and comparison with authenticated material. 
  • Lectures and practical identification sessions concentrating on archaeological charcoal and waterlogged wood, temperate and tropical timbers including those in international trade and covered by protective legislation such as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and EU Timber Regulations, decorative veneers and root anatomy. 
  • Extensive use of the reference collection of microscope slides (Jodrell Laboratory) and a visit to the wood collection (Economic Botany Collection).

How to apply for place 

New course dates will be advertised here as soon as they have been confirmed.