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Institute of

HF Wood Research


Databases wood identification

Thünen macroHOLZdata
© Thünen-Institut

Extension of databases (computer-assisted wood identification) and references (fiber atlas) for the identification of solid wood, wood-based materials and paper/-products

For the identification of internationally traded timber, wood products and paper, the databases and references must be continuously extended and updated. One focus is the extension of a fiber (vessel) atlas for the identification of woods in fiberboards and paper.

Background and Objective

The Thünen Institute of Wood Research developed the databases Commercial Timbers, macroHOLZdata, CITESwoodID and softwoodID as a basis for the anatomical identification of internationally traded woods and wood products. The databases contain descriptions of the anatomical structural features in text and image as well as computer-aided keys for the macroscopic and microscopic identification of a total of 500 hardwoods and coniferous trees.

In order to be able to the identification of wood species used in fibreboards (MDF) and paper products, a fibre (vessel) atlas was also developed. It contains anatomical descriptions of 38 tropical tree species from temperate and tropical areas in Asia, which are processed into pulp and paper according to current market surveys.

The databases and the fiber atlas are used routinely for wood identification at the Thünen Centre of Competence on the Origin of Timber and are also very successfully provided for national and international training courses and educations.

 As a result of the globalised markets, wood products with so-called "lesser known species" are increasingly being traded. Therefore, it is necessary to continuously extend and update the databases, particularly the fibre atlas, which is currently focused on timber from Asia and must be upgraded to further important commercial tree species. Furthermore, it is planned to develop databases for mobile applications. The macroHOLZdata database is already available as an app (IOS), (see:

Target Group

Science, authorities and timber trade


For the extension of the databases, the anatomical structural features of the newly added timbers are described according to the "IAWA list of microscopic features for softwood/hardwood identification" (IAWA COMMITTEE), illustrated with high-quality microscopic images and linked in the computer-assisted identification keys. For the description of a solid wood (hardwood), up to 90 microscopic structural features are described.

In comparison, considerably limited structural features can be used for the anatomical identification of fibre elements, since the tissue composite is completely dissolved (= macerated) by the chemical pulping. A differentiation of the woods is only possible on the basis of the vessel elements, since the fibers and storage cells (parenchyma) show no significant differentiation characteristics. The shape, size and arrangement of the vessel pits are used as important anatomical characteristics. Furthermore, the type of vessel perforations and the occurrence of helical thickenings have a high diagnostic significance. These characteristics are recorded by image analysis and documented in the form of a fibre (vessel) atlas with approx. 25 characteristics each in text and image form. In order to verify the practical application of the newly developed references, mixtures of different pulps are processed into papers and their identification was tested in the form of "blind tests".

Our Research Questions

Development of databases and digital systems for the computer-aided identification of wood species.

Preliminary Results

The databases Commercial Timbers, macroHOLZdata, CITESwoodID and softwoodID were extensively updated in 2018/19.

Commercial Timbers: Database for the microscopic identification of wood species with anatomical descriptions of 409 commercial timbers.

macroHOLZdata: Database for macroscopic wood species determination of 130 economic tree species with descriptions of properties and utilisation (the macroHOLZdata app contains descriptions of 100 commercial trees).

CITESwoodID: Database for the macroscopic identification of 44 CITES-protected timbers and 31 commercial timbers, which can easily be mistaken due to their similar appearance.

softwoodID: Database for microscopic identification and anatomical descriptions of 53 softwoods (conifers).

The fibre atlas "Atlas of Vessel Elements - Identification of Asian Timbers" is published in the IAWA Journal (Bulletin of the International Association of Wood Anatomists) and available for the identification of Asian woods in fibreboards and paper/products.

Links and Downloads

Funding Body

  • German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU)
    (national, öffentlich)


1.2017 - 12.2023

More Information

Project status: ongoing

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