View Full Version : DNA of wood.....

11-28-2007, 10:11 PM
I've heard there are labs that can test a sample of my 50+ year old mahogany and tell me definitively the species, age, and origin (Africa, S.A, etc).
Anyone know of a lab in the US?


George Roberts
11-29-2007, 12:36 AM
age will be impossible

origin might be possible but unlikely

Andreas Jordahl Rhude
11-29-2007, 08:01 AM
USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Lab, One Gifford Pinchot Drive, Madison, WI.

I beleive they will test one sample per year from any USA citizen for free. It is YOUR lab.


Paul Scheuer
11-29-2007, 01:55 PM
Age Impossible -

I saw an article, pre- internet, about an ongoing project involving several Universities to develop a means for aging wood. The scheme was to establish the overall pattern of annual rings in wood samples of various known ages and overlapping life spans. They used several examples of major environmental events like Krakatoa and local weather conditions that show up in the individual patterns and allow them to be arranged in a continuous sequence. It sounded logical to me. Maybe somone else knows more.

Bob Smalser
11-29-2007, 03:42 PM
I've heard there are labs that can test a sample of my 50+ year old mahogany and tell me definitively the species, age, and origin (Africa, S.A, etc).

Not quite. Species identification and countries it's indigenous to are easy enough. Age isn't, as there are too many other local factors involved than global climate models. Age can be determined if the sample came from a research forest with a database of core samples, but your wood could have come from forests in a dozen countries of either Central or South America or another dozen in Africa. And that's only if it's not really one of the Shoreas from the PI, which it also could be.

Rather than wait a year for the FPL to reply, you can ID the wood yourself with a razor blade and 10X hand lens. Dr. Bruce Hoadley's Identifying Wood published by Taunton, written for the layman and available used on Amazon has a good section on commonly-imported tropicals.

Seth Wood
11-29-2007, 05:08 PM
Paul -- That's dendrochronology, or "tree-ring dating," using patterns of annular growth rings to help determine age. It's pretty iffy (and inexact), even in archaeology, and would be difficult in a small piece. But I think you're right: the effort to establish a large-scale "index" of datable tree rings continues.

Tom Robb
11-29-2007, 05:15 PM
Once you get the information, of what use is it?

11-29-2007, 07:12 PM
They'll ID up to five samples per calendar year, per household or business. And (not to contradict Bob), they claim that the turn around time is 2-6 weeks, depending on species, etc.

USDA Center for Wood Anatomy Research (http://www2.fpl.fs.fed.us/WoodID/idfact.html)

Good reading on that link as to what they can/cannot, will/will not do for you.

11-29-2007, 10:38 PM
Thanks for all your replies!
Have emailed the USDA, and ordered a copy of the book.


11-30-2007, 12:40 PM
I also recommend Dr. Bruce Hoadley's Understanding Wood.