Hardwoods are the botanical group of trees that have broad leaves, produce a fruit or nut, and generally go dormant in the winter.
America's temperate climates produce forests with hundreds of hardwood species -- trees that share certain biological characteristics. Although oak, maple and cherry all are types of hardwood trees, for example, they are different species. Together, all the hardwood species represent 40 percent of the trees in the United States.
On the other hand, softwoods, or conifers, from the Latin word meaning "cone-bearing," have needles. Widely available US softwoods include cedar, fir, hemlock, pine, redwood, spruce and cypress. In a home, the softwoods are used primarily as structural lumber such as 2x4s and 2x6s, with some limited decorative applications.
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