Database Details

The InsideWood Database

The InsideWood collection is treated as a special collection within the NC State University's libraries, which is committed to maintaining its digital collections.

Photoalbums on Facebook
These photoalbums have slide sets with background information on InsideWood, including hints and cautions about searching the IW database. They are public and you do not need to belong to Facebook to view them. Links to them are below
"About InsideWood" with information on source of the data and the images, how to export descriptions, caveats about database content.
"InsideWood Notes. 27 March 2010" with some more cautions and reminders about coding, e.g. vessel-ray parenchyma pits.
"15 April 2010. Notes" cautions on coding vessel diameter and density, perforated ray cells (a problematic feature).
"InsideWood search hints" two slides about coding for absence.
"Reminder about storied structure" two slides about storied structure.
"Brief Introduction to Microscopic Wood Anatomy"

Descriptions: The anatomical descriptions in the InsideWood database are in the tradition of multiple entry card keys: only features present are stored and displayed. The coded descriptions use features from the International Association of Wood Anatomists (IAWA) List of Features for Hardwood Identification (IAWA Committee 1989) and List of Features for Softwood Identification (IAWA Committee 2004). We recommend that you carefully study these publication available from the Publications Section of Downloads of the IAWA website.

Some descriptions represent multiple species because the species share similar wood anatomy. However, it is possible that additional work will find that there are differences between the species in some of these groups.

Some species have more than one record. These species are ones that are commercially important or common and widespread modern species, which have been described by multiple authors, and fossil woods that occur at different localities (each occurrence of a fossil species treated as a separate record).

For many modern wood descriptions, there are accompanying References, which were used to create the description or to edit a translated description. If there is no reference, then that description would be one of the original Oxford card descriptions, and it is likely to have many features coded as unknowns ('?'). Information in Anatomy of the Dicotyledons (Metcalfe and Chalk, 1950) has been used to edit these descriptions. All fossil wood descriptions have accompanying references.

Variability: Wood is variable, and most descriptions are based on only a few samples. Consequently, the database description may not represent the full variability of a species. Although this database is relatively large, certainly not all woody species are represented; an unknown wood may belong to a species not represented in the database. Also, remember that not only is wood variable, but wood anatomists vary in their interpretations and descriptions (especially of fiber pits).

If a feature is present in some samples of a species, but absent in others, or if a feature is borderline with a tendency to show a feature, that feature will be coded as variable with the feature number followed by a ¿v.¿ For example, a 9v indicates that the wood sample is close to having all solitary vessels, but does not meet the criterion of >90% solitary. Features coded v will match searches using either p¿s (present) or a¿s (absent), but not r¿s (presence required) or e¿s (absence require).

If it's not known if a feature is present or absent in a species, that feature will be coded as unknown with the feature number followed by a "?". An author may not provide information on a feature, e.g., vessel-ray parenchyma pits, so feature numbers for v-rp pits are followed by "?". Features coded ? will match searches using either p¿s (present) or a¿s (absent), but not r¿s (presence required) or e¿s (absence require).

Fossil Wood Database: The core of the fossil wood database is a 1200-record database compiled for a 1991 survey of changes in wood structure through time (IAWA Bull. n.s. 12: 272-332). Fossil wood descriptions use a subset of the IAWA Hardwood Features List. Some IAWA features were not included because they are rarely mentioned in the fossil wood literature or are difficult to determine in fossil woods. Features unique to the fossil wood database are numbered in the 300s, including those for age (see list below).

Reports of woods not dated to epoch (for instance, those referred to as Tertiary? late Tertiary?) or without detailed anatomical descriptions were not included in the 1991 database. Only a few such woods are now. The database is not all-inclusive, we believe it contains information on at least 75% of the reasonably well-dated and reasonably well-described fossil dicot woods, including ones not assigned to family or genus. Additions and corrections to the fossil as well as the modern wood database will continue to be made via a controlled access cataloging piece, and reprints and images to use for that would be welcome.

A comprehensive list of fossil dicot wood names and references through 2007 is available in the just printed (11 June 2009)

Fossil dicot wood names ¿ an annotated list with full bibliography.
M. Gregory, I. Poole, E. A. Wheeler. 2009. IAWA Journal, Supplement 6. 220 pp.
To get a copy for yourself and/or your library use the ORDER FORM (pdf) for IAWA special publications and IAWA membership. Text we'll use to advertise this publication follows.

This publication represents the most comprehensive list available for generic and specific names of fossil dicot woods, giving synonyms, geological ages and geographical sources. It is an invaluable resource for palaeobotanists and systematists doing evolutionary, palaeoenvironmental, or palaeogeographic studies. Names are listed by family and include all those that have appeared in print, whether validly published or not, as well as names from unpublished theses.

A valuable feature of this publication is the inclusion of any subsequent changes in taxonomic placement of specimens, with associated cross-referencing under families. In addition to publications with the original diagnosis of a species, references describing additional specimens of that species are cited. Surveys, keys, and fossil dicot woods of questionable affinity and not assigned generic names but to wood types are also listed. A bibliography of more than 1300 references accompanies this annotated list with over 3300 entries.

Features in the fossil wood database, but NOT in the modern wood database are:
    300 for vessel-ray parenchyma pits with reduced borders, which encompasses IAWA features 31 and 32.
    301 for banded parenchyma, which encompasses IAWA features 85 and 86 and can be used when it is difficult to tell whether parenchyma band width fits into the category more than three cells wide or less than three cells wide, but it is clear that parenchyma bands are present.
    303 rays storied, which encompasses IAWA features 119 and 120.
    304 oil cells present, an additional general category used for descriptions from the literature where the location of oil cells wasn't indicated.
    305 normal axial canals present encompasses IAWA features 127, 128, 129.
    306 included phloem encompasses IAWA features 134 and 135.
    307, a general category for crystals in ray cells and 308, a general category for crystals in axial parenchyma cells.
    309-332 for geologic age
    333 for samples that are "Small complete axis, twig, branch"

Modern wood features NOT used in the fossil wood database include
    19, 23, 25, 26, 29. 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 45, 57, 58, 59, 63, 64, 66, 67-73, 81, 82, 87, 88, 90-94, 95, 112, 113, 117, 121, 122, 135, 139, 144-155, 157-163, 190-221.

If you are using the modern wood menu and use some of the features that are not used for fossil wood, then choose to search both the fossil and modern wood databases, those features not used for fossil woods will not be treated as mismatches for the fossil woods. The reverse is true, if you use the fossil wood menu to describe an unknown and code a feature unique to the fossil wood database, and then search both fossil and modern databases, these features, such as age, would not result in any of the modern wood results showing a mismatch for those features.

Modern Wood Database: The modern wood database represents a translation of the OPCN database used with the GUESS and VIEW programs for personal computers [see the following pdfs: Pearson and Wheeler (1981; 390 KB); Wheeler et al. (1986; 1.1 MB); LaPasha and Wheeler (1987; 1.9 MB). The name of the database reflects important sources of information for the 1986 database: 'O' = Oxford, 'P' = Princes Risborough, 'C' = Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, 'N' = North Carolina State University

The descriptions in the OPCN database used a slightly modified version of the Oxford features that L. Chalk used when recording information for Anatomy of the Dicotyledons (Metcalfe and Chalk, 1950). Because many species descriptions are based on Chalk's original observations from the 1930's and 1940's, some family, genus, and species names are no longer considered valid. We are working to correct the nomenclature and hope to eventually bring it in accordance with currently accepted usage.

In the late 1990's, a computer program was used to translate the Oxford features into an IAWA-feature database. The subsequent translation required (and still requires) considerable editing. To date, editing and addition of new descriptions has been done by Elisabeth Wheeler, using the literature and observations of samples in the NCSU (PACw), Leiden (Lw), and Kew (Kw) wood collections.

In some cases, there is a 1:1 correspondence between the features of the Oxford list and the IAWA List. For example, Oxford feature 6: simple perforations = IAWA feature 13: simple perforations.

In other cases, the IAWA feature list is more detailed, so that the initial translation meant that these more detailed features are coded as unknowns ('?'). As an example, the translation of scalariform perforation plates is described below.

The IAWA features are:
14. Scalariform perforation plates present
15. Scalariform perforation plates with 10 or fewer bars
16. Scalariform perforation plates with 10 ¿ 20 bars
17. Scalariform perforation plates with 20 ¿ 40 bars
18. Scalariform perforation plates with 40 or more bars

The Oxford features are:
7. Multiple perforations present
8. Scalariform perforation plates with more than 20 bars.

Therefore, if a description in the OPCN database had feature 7 present, but not feature 8, the description would translate to IAWA feature 14 present, but with 15 and 16 coded as unknowns ('?') because the wood has scalariform perforations, but it is not known whether there are 10 or fewer bars (Feature 15) or 10 to 20 bars (Feature 16) or both. If Oxford 7 and 8 were present, then the translated description would have IAWA 17 and 18 both coded as unknowns ('?').

There are IAWA features that had no equivalents in the Oxford list, and so these translated to unknowns ('?'). For example, there was no Oxford feature for fiber pits common on both radial and tangential walls (IAWA Feature 63), and so it translated to 63?.

More details on the translation and potential problems with some features are given in translation.pdf. (315 KB)

Samples: Some descriptions are accompanied by references to samples on which the description is based or of which we have an archived image. MADw 12002 is a sample from the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Center for Wood Anatomy Research, Madison, Wisconsin; UF 12026 is a fossil wood sample in the University of Florida, Gainesville, Paleobotanical Collections. For a listing of modern wood collections and abbreviations see: Stern, W.L. 1988. Index Xylariorum: Institutional wood collections of the world. Third Edition. IAWA Bull. n.s. 9: 203¿230. To determine if the modern wood sample is herbarium vouchered you would need to check with the institutional wood collection.

Images: Insofar as possible, data about the samples (metadata) are recorded for all images, including:

Specimen information
    Specimen ID, collection/accession number.
    Family, genus and species of specimen; or lowest possible taxonomic rank

Image Information
    Objective lens used.
    Plane of view (cross, radial, or tangential).
    Source medium of image [e.g., digital original, color negative, black and white negative].
    Resolution, bit depth, and file type of digital image file.
    Imaging hardware (e.g., scanner or camera) used.

Repository Information
    Name of photographers and their institutional affiliations.
    Source page or identification of original analog media, e.g., date photo taken, number assigned to negative sheet, or other information that would allow retrieval of the original photograph.

Note: most images in the InsideWood collection do not have scale bars as they represent scans of 35 mm film or are images taken with a digital camera that did not have the option of adding embedded scale bars. If you need images with embedded scale bars, the PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) and CITES listed woods photos from Kew (Peter Gasson) have scale bars, as do images taken by Frederic Lens, Alice Campbell, or some of the color photos I've done (Elisabeth Wheeler). You can find these images by doing a key word search for PROTA or CITES or the last name of the photographer.