TAXA Wood Knowledge Base


All living things are scientifically classified under the Botanical Tree of Life, from giant to miniature plants and animals, birds, fish, fungus, bacteria or viruses. To accommodate such a huge diversity requires many levels of organization. Our sole interest is in wood only. As such, the initial and central approach to this knowledge base has been to create a complete a Botanical Tree of Wood. The whole central premise of starting the knowledge base (nicknamed for convenience as the TAXA Website) was to find and list as many woods in existence in the world as would be possible.

After at least 9 years of research, it became recognized that the collection of both botanical names and so much attending data that followed along that the system had well surpassed being only a hyperlinked pyramid of wood names. Marvelously it had grown as a receptacle for massive information on as broad a listing of thousands of woods as you are likely to find anywhere. At that point, a decision was made to rightfully name it the TAXA Wood Wood Knowledge Base. "TAXA" is now not only complete as a botanical wood tree but additional functions and features continue to be developed and expand notably the breadth of function and usefulness of TAXA.

Wood comes almost exclusively from trees. New species (types) of wood continue to be found. For every species of tree, there is also a unique wood. For some years it therefore appeared that there were over 100,000 unique woods. In recent years, collaborative work by scientists in three major institutions have reduced listed duplicates, removed invalid names and came up with a list of around 55,000 unique species. So far, TAXA is listing just over 15,100 unique woods and varieties of wood.

Using and Navigating the Botanical Trees

Since only woody plants are of interest in a wood knowledge base, the full list of classifiers for all life forms is not needed. There are only four levels of classification that is needed:

  • Botanical Orders
  • Botanical Families
  • Genera
  • Species
  • Enough development has been completed so that you can enter at any of these levels and still travel up or down the botanical tree of wood. For the general public, for those who have not had any biological or botanical training, the Genus (single, Genera is plural) is the first level that is easy to relate to. That is the level at which all woods of a similar type are grouped together. Examples would include all pines, all oaks, all rosewoods, all walnuts and so on. Each Genus that is accepted to be a woody Genus only if it is known to have one or more woody species ranking below it. In contrast, species names pin down a tree or plant to labelling specifically and exactly one one type of plant. It makes sense, therefore, that it is only finally at the species level of organization and listing that makes any sense to show the actual photographic appearance of any woods.

    The highest botanical level of categorization we have to be involved with for wood is the Botanical Order. Each woody order has many botanical Families. Each woody Family has woody Genera. Each woody Genus (single of Genus) has woody Species under it. The list of items at each level grows exponentially as you go down this botanical tree of classification. In fact, there are so many entries in the lower levels that alphabetical lists have been added. You can display the whole list of woody orders, families, genera or species at once -- if you don't mind an awful lot of panning and scrolling. To make viewing easier, you can pick an alphabetical letter which then cuts down the amount of data shown to only the woods starting with that alphabet.

    All Woody Taxon
    The menu choices list all known woody orders, woody families, woody genera and woody species. This allows entering the botanical tree of wood at any level. What each of these pages display is independent of what parent classification is above them. However, clicking on any one item listed starts you down the rest of the tree with parent-child dependencies. Optionally, you can click near the top of each data page to travel to the parent of the item (ie. "taxon") except the Order level since it is already the top level being reported.

    There are some areas in the database that have considerable entries. Expect that you will also come acress others that seem very barren. The amount of data that exists and needs to be copied into the database files is, well --- just plain massive! As the months and years go by expect more and more data to be entered. Until funds can be found to hire on others (both for structural programming and for massive data input) there is no team of workers available to assist .... only the one person who started all this development. By chance if you have some skills in basic taxonomy, some hopeful knowledge of wood and/or are proficient in PHP and MySQL and would care to assist, we would love to hear from you. You can be in touch via the Contact Us page.

    Who Should Use Which Functions in TAXA?

    Over 15,000 wood name entries is a lot of entries for anyone to use! In fact most people will show interest only in the woods that they can somehow buy or procur to use. Unless you are in wood research or deaply into the academics of wood, the complete botanical tree is overkill to use. In planning TAXA, it was long realized that there is a long range of interests in wood. A research professional will want as full a database as can be supplied. A novice or amateur to wood will want only an easy to understand smaller list of woods they are likely to be able to actually be able to procure --- namely commercial woods. Here are a few recommendations for what organizational trees may be best for you to use according to your skill level and interests:

    TAXA Search
    Anyone can use the search engine to cut through so much data to what you wish to find. Just make sure that you first click on what type of search you want to do first.
    Novice or Amateur
    The Commercial Woods option in the menu cuts down the wood entries to around 10% of the total woods reported. These woods are not entered into the list unless they have been reported to be commercially available somewhere in the world. It is these woods that most people can relate to and even work with. It is this category that will be most relevant to most people. Also, perhaps the easiest part of TAXA for anyone at any level includes the color, UV, and upcoming tree photo galleries. Photos are something we all understand and appreciate. All galleries are presently under redevelopment and expansion.
    Woodworkers and Craftsmen
    Those who use wood daily, especially those that use more daily than just the most common construction woods will have become familiar with a wider range of woods. Quite a few will enjoy learning about what commercial exotic woods they have not yet used. If that is your level of wood interest, you may very well find much utility and pleasure in using many of the additional services listed in the main menu.
    Wood Collectors and Ameteur Academics
    All this started from a challenge from a wood collector to create as comprehensive a list of woods as can be found ---- on the premise that this would be the ultimate goal in collecting. In unison with this, will be to present photos and scans of as many well identified woods as can be found, also. Whether a collector of wood or just a lover of wood, what a pleasureful pasttime it can be to find what woods do exist --- and be able to see what they look like long before ever being able to see them in person. The fascination with wood is to see how very different they can be .... with grain, density, hardness, odor and other characteristics. For most, such descriptions or photos and scans may very well be the only way that they can ever view what these woods are like.
    Academics and Professionals
    Those that have strong academic backgrounds, including professional researchers, will have their apetites satiated further using the full botanical tree to guide them to all woods and details on how they all relate to each other. It is at this top level of understanding, also, that all of the major functions offered could be of interest and benefit. One future intention will be to grow a large library of photomicros, the more the better, to assist with wood identification and wood anatomy studies.

    Enjoy your stay --- and do come back once in a while to see what new functions and data have been added.

    Last update - January 10, 2013