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Botanical identification tests for wood species

Botanical identification provides access to the technological properties of wood species that are normally available in literature or in databases; this allows greater knowledge of and correct application for this material. It is also useful for the trade insofar as it enables detection of errors and fraud.

Since 1931, IPT has been engaged in the botanical identification of wood species based on the analysis of the xylem anatomy.

Wood presents an internal organization which is fairly characteristic and varies between the different groups, forming image patterns that allow for positive identification, be it as trees, logs or sawn timber. There are two processes of identification: macroscopic and microscopic.

The macroscopic process is a fast method that allows identification of most commercial timbers. A polishing knife and a thread-counter magnifying glass are used for observation and subsequent comparison with samples kept at the Calvino Mainieri Wood Collection, the largest collection of woods in Latin America, which contains approximately 17,500 specimens of Brazilian and foreign wood. The collection supplies standards for botanical identification based on xylem anatomy, serving the forestry products, construction and furniture industries and other economic and cultural sectors that work with wood.

The microscopic process requires careful preparation of histological slides and observation under an optical microscope. The wood structure is observed in detail and compared with a collection of over 13 thousand histological slides stored at IPT. Identification is aided by electronic databases established by IPT or at institutions in other countries.