Choosing American hardwoods means knowing with confidence that the hardwood has been responsibly harvested and quality control standards have been met. It also means that the resulting product, be it flooring, furniture, cabinetry or millwork, will be beautiful, durable and treasured for generations. However, today’s market offers many synthetic products that may look like American hardwood on the surface, but won’t provide the same attributes over time. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but don’t be fooled. Certain tropical and temperate hardwoods, and even grasses, not native to the United States are masquerading as traditional homegrown favorites and being marketed with “new” names that play on the rich heritage of domestic hardwoods like cherry, maple and oak. Here are some common examples:
|Marketing Name||Is Not||Really Is|
|“Brazilian maple”||maple||pau marfin|
|“Patagonian maple”||maple||pau marfin|
|“Australian Heritage oak”||oak||eucalyptus|
|“Rose River gum “||gum||eucalyptus|
Products made from tropical grasses like bamboo are also being referenced as hardwood. However, bamboo is a grass grown typically in tropical regions of the world and it is not carbon negative. To make flooring, the grass is glued together under tremendous pressures of up to 1,200 pounds per square inch. Glue content can range from three to 20 percent, and often contains urea formaldehyde, which is classified as a probable human carcinogen. Manufacturers approximate it could last only 30 years. And because it is typically manufactured in Southeast Asia, shipment to U.S. shores increases its carbon footprint, significantly.
To confirm the identity of a wood species, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service suggests checking the species’ botanical name. The botanical name for a real oak tree, for example, will contain the word "Quercus," which means "a fine tree" in Latin.
The Species Guide on this website also outlines botanical names, descriptions and lore about major hardwood species found in the temperate forests of the United States.