Tree Removal and Tree Cutting: The Toughest Trees to Cut

Part 4 - Tree Removal and Tree Cutting - The Toughest Trees to Cut

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Knowing about the trees takes a bit of an extra mile of research. After learning about the  10 things you shouldn’t do when cutting trees, here are a couple of trees that are really hard to cut.

Although these trees are rarely found outside forests, they are considered the toughest trees by arborists and you might need professional help in terms of tree removal or tree cutting. Not to mention, some might actually be endangered so an appraisal would be necessary.

The Hardest Trees to Cut Down

Some trees are harder to cut than others and therefore will require a different approach in terms of technique and equipment used. If before you read this article you thought that the wood of all trees is about equal in strength, however, this is not the case. Some tree species are harder to cut than others. The reason behind the differences is the density of the wood. Even though all wood is cellulose, the way the fibers are aligned and how tightly they are packed together makes the difference in the hardness of the wood of a tree. Typically, slow-growing species, such as oaks, walnuts or maples, have denser, harder, and sturdier wood, which makes it both challenging to cut and at the same time desirable for harvest, as such durable wood will be more resistant to breakage, insect infestation and will last longer.

Usually, hardwoods are not found often on residential properties, as they tend to grow very large and take over the entire area, blocking much of the sunlight. Nevertheless, you can still come across them growing in the yards of older properties that have been built a century or more ago. By today, those trees would most likely be very old, large, dying, often serving as a hub for wildlife and pests, and in desperate need to be either trimmed, cut, or removed entirely. In such cases, experts will need to evaluate the tree, measure its hardness and suggest a course of action. At this point, you may be wondering: how do experts measure the hardness of a tree? The answer is very simple, a tree’s hardness is measured using the Janka Test.

What Is the Janka Test?

The Janka Test is a standard test named after its creator Gabriel Janka. Gabriel was an Austrian-American researcher who worked for the USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory. Janka designed a test to measure the resistance of wood by pressing a steel ball with a precise diameter of 0.44 inches into a sample of the wood halfway in. The amount of force that was used to press the steel ball was the Janka score, which ranges from 0 to 4,000 lbf (pounds of force), with harder woods scoring higher on the scale. Today, Janka scores are available for all known trees, and therefore an expert will know exactly how to cut the tree simply by identifying the species and approximate age.

Since we mentioned the Janka Test, we also decided to talk about some of the hardest trees to cut. But you need not worry about them being on your property, as they grow too large and too wide and are not suitable for an urban landscape, therefore even if they ever grew in the area you currently live, they were harvested long before your property was built, thus information below is simply for fun and educational purposes.

Tree Removal and Tree Cutting: The Hardest Trees to Cut Down

So, here’s a list of the ten (10) hardest trees to cut:

Quebracho (Schinopsis spp.)

Literally “axe breaker” in Spanish, this tree scores 4,390 lbf in the Janka test. This tree species produces very hard and durable timber, which is ideal for an all-weather construction. The inner wood has a beautiful coloring of dark copper or deep reddish-brown, which makes these trees desirable for the production of tannins – natural dyes, valuable industrial materials used for dyeing cellulose fibers, wools, and silks, yielding a wide array of colors from browns to yellows, copper and fiery orange to lovely pinks and rose gold.

Quebracho species typically grow in the tropical regions of South America (North Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Venezuela)

Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum officinale)

With a Janka score of 4,390 lbf, Lignum Vitae may be the second hardest tree in the world however, it is listed as an endangered species and therefore international trade of these species is restricted. Lingam Vitae (“wood of life” in Latin) is also valuable for its medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs and arthritis. This species of trees are native to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America and to the natives, it is also known as palo santo (“holly wood” in Spanish). South American shamans believe that burning palo santo before spiritual rituals will clean the area and will protect participants from evil spirits, therefore small pieces of it can often be found in botanica (religious stores that sell herbs and other goods used in rituals) and metaphysical stores that sell incense, oils, candles, crystals, and other “magical devices”.

Gidgee (Acacia cambagei)

Gidgee, also known as stinking wattle or stinking gidgee, is native to native to Australia and scores 4,270 lbf in the Janka test. This tree produces dark-colored wood with beautiful lines and perfectly substitutes mahogany or ebony due to its high resistance. Gidgee got its nickname “stinky” due to a very stringy odor that the leaves, bark, and litter around the base of the tree give off in humid weather. Timber obtained from this tree is used in making knives, bowls, jewelry boxes, and even musical instruments, as its hardness and beautiful deep brown color and design create truly magnificent pieces.

Snakewood (Brosimum guianensis)

The snakewood got its name from unique markings akin to that of the reptile with a typical coloring of reddish brown and contrasting dark brown and black patches. This tree can be found in coastal regions of southern Mexico, Central America, Trinidad, and tropical regions of South America and is one of the most expensive trees to process. Scoring 3,800 lbf in the Janka test, snakewood is one of the most difficult timbers to work with not only because the tools get blunt very fast, but also because its dust is toxic and can irritate skin and respiratory tract on contact. Nevertheless, the spectacular grain of snakewood makes it a desirable material not only because of its neat pattern but also because of its resistance to insect attacks. Snakewood is an excellent tone wood and instruments that are made from it sound similar to those made from ebony, making it a highly desirable material for violin bowls production.

Australian Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii)

Unofficially known as the tree with the hardest wood in the world, the Australian Buloke scores 3,760 lbf (pound-force) in the Janka Test. It is characterized by reddish brown heartwood with light yellowish brown sapwood and straight to slightly interlocked grain. Uncommon outside Australia, wood from this tree is commonly made into knife handles, fine furniture, and flooring.

Verawood (Bulnesia arborea)

Also known as Argentine Lignum Vitae, Verawood produces wood with colors ranging from pale yellowish to deep forest green, dark brown, and even almost black. Timber made of verawood is very durable, has a distinct perfume-like odor, resistant to insect attack making it perfect for outdoor use. Nevertheless, harvesting of the verawood is very limited as it is listed as an endangered species in the CITES Appendix III. The trees are common in northern South America and Central America and the wood scores 3,710 lbf in the Janka test.

Camelthorn (Vachellia erioloba)

This Africa-native tree is so hard that it is perfectly suitable for fence posts. With a score of 3,680 lbf on the Janka test, the former member of the acacia family loves deep dry sandy soils and is protected by thorns. Camelthorn produces dark reddish brown timber with uniformed medium texture and is considered to be a protected tree in South Africa, making its availability scarce, and driving the prices up. Currently, you can only buy small squares and craft blanks that are used to make decor pieces and other small wood craft objects.

African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon)

The original “ebony” tree even before the Diospyros genus, the African blackwood produces marvelous timber that is often completely black with occasional dark brown or purplish hue. With a hardness of 3,680 lbf on the Janka test, this wood is highly desirable for the production of musical instruments, pieces of decor, and other turned objects. Due to its unusual color, African blackwood was a highly sought-after wood for decades, resulting in a decline of this species in the wild. Currently, African blackwood is listed as endangered species on CITES Appendix II making the trade in Dalbergia melanoxylon highly regulated, restricted, and very limited. If you ever come across a gorgeous piece of decor made out of African blackwood while traveling abroad, before you happily pay for it and put it in your suitcase, make sure the seller gives you a CITES permit for export, otherwise you might get in trouble for illegal importation of heavily regulated species.

Black Ironwood (Krugiodendron ferreum)

Timber made from the Black Ironwood tree scores 3,660 lbf on the Janka test and is commonly growing in the Caribbean, South Florida, and Central America, making it the heaviest wood in the United States. It belongs to the Olive tree family and when cut, its wood is known to have a beautiful range of red, orange, violet, and brown colors and is reported to be resistant to termites and decay, therefore it is commonly used for fence posts, handles of tools and as firewood.

Cebil (Anadenanthera colubrina)

The Cebil tree also known as Curupay and colloquially called the Patagonian Rosewood, produces timber that ranges in color from pale to medium reddish brown with dark or black streaks, fine uniform texture, and irregular grain. Native to South American countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, the tree is known for its hardness, scoring 3,630 lbf on the Janka test. Keep in mind though, cebil is not a true rosewood by any means. It is a pretty common species with very durable wood that is resistant to termites and therefore is used for flooring, exterior construction, furniture, food bowls, and other small decor and turned objects.

What’s Next?

After all the scientific names, hardness scores, and learning about the Janka test, we hope you found this interesting. You might even be able to see these trees while hiking and exploring a nearby forest. If you find some of these trees nearby and are in need of help with tree care or removal, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can properly assist you.

Our next article in the series will be all about the tools we use and more advanced methods of tree removal and tree cutting. Read through and check it out! Part 5: Tools and Effective Methods

Other parts of this Tree Removal and Tree Cutting series:

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