Hardwood trees are found in many locations around the world. Hardwood trees typically produce denser wood than softwood trees and are often sought out for furniture making, construction and to make musical instruments, such as clarinets. Hardwoods that grow mainly in the tropics include lauan, ebony, teak and mahogany. Popular European and American hardwood trees are maple, oak, cherry, beech and ash. Some specialty hardwood evergreen trees that grow in Europe include the holm oak, holly and boxwood varieties.
Most hardwood trees are deciduous, meaning that they have large, broad leaves that fall off during the fall or autumn seasons. The trees are normally dormant during the winter and the leaves develop again in the spring and summer. Evergreen hardwood tree varieties, those that maintain the same leaves year round, are typically found in certain sub tropic and tropic locales. Most conifer (cone-bearing) or evergreen trees fall into the softwood category.
Trees classified as hardwood do not always produce wood that is harder than softwood. Both categories have strains that have such wide ranges in density that they often overlap in classification. For instance, balsa is a hardwood that is generally softer than most softwood. Conversely, the yew tree, a small, bush-like tree in the conifer family, is one of the hardest softwood tree species. However, the hardest hardwood trees are significantly harder than any softwood types, and there are about 100 times as many hardwood tree classes as softwood ones.
The lumber produced from hardwood trees is most often used in building construction, furniture building, musical instrument production and flooring. Its beauty and durability are generally preferred over other woods but its cost is often prohibitive for large projects. A number of products advertised as hardwood are actually constructed of hardwood veneers bonded to less expensive materials such as fiberboard or plywood.
Though often preferred over softwoods, hardwoods cannot be as easily interchanged in manufacturing or construction. Each variety has its own fiber and growth pattern, grain consistency, density and pore size. These aspects greatly affect certain hardwood tree lumber flexibility. In furniture making particularly, flexibility is important when attaching legs to chair seats, a process only certain types of hardwood can withstand without splitting.
One reason the lumber of some hardwood trees is costly is that some varieties have been over planted and over harvested. Growers of some species of mahogany and teak have had their tree crops greatly diminished by government restrictions aimed at saving these varieties from extinction. Other hardwood tree species have recently been focused on by environmentalist organizations to prevent threats to their survival.