11 Major Types of Softwood Trees And Their Characteristics

Softwood is usually wood from gymnosperm trees such as pine and spruce, which often reproduce using cones and occasionally nuts. The trees classified as softwoods have needle- or scale-like leaves that, with a few exceptions, remain on the tree all through the year. Hence, softwood trees are sometimes called evergreens. Botanically, they are known as gymnosperms and instead of bearing seeds from flowers, gymnosperms have exposed seeds in cones.

They generally have lower densities and are often light in colour. Softwoods usually grow quicker than hardwoods and are cheaper, softer and easier to work. Within the softwood and hardwood groups, there is a considerable variation in actual wood hardness, the range of density in hardwoods completely, including that of softwoods. Some hardwoods (such as balsa) are softer than most softwoods, while the hardest hardwoods are much harder than any softwood. In short, the terms softwood and hardwood are archaic with questionable meaning and often belie the properties of the wood. Softwoods are generally most used by the construction industry and are also used to produce paper pulp, and card products. 

  1. Pine Trees
  2. Spruce Trees
  3. Fir Trees
  4. Larch Trees
  5. Cedar Trees
  6. Western Hemlock
  7. Yew
  8. Cypress
  9. Redwood
  10. Juniper
  11. Cyptomeria


Pine trees are a type of softwood tree that is widely distributed across the globe, and they belong to the Pinaceae family. As a softwood, pine has less density and a more open cell structure compared to hardwoods like oak or maple. The trees are relatively fast-growing compared to many other tree species. The pine is generally easier to work with and is an excellent option for various applications, including construction, furniture-making, and other woodwork projects.

Pine is a highly valued tree species for commercial use, with many industries relying on the tree’s high-quality lumber, pulp, and resin. Pine lumber is often used in construction, flooring, furniture, and other woodworking applications. The wood is relatively light and easy to work with.

There are many species of pine with each species having own unique characteristics that make them ideal for specific applications. For example, Eastern White Pine is known for its long, straight needles and light-colored, knot-free wood that is highly sought after for use in cabinetry, trim, and other decorative applications. Southern Yellow Pine, on the other hand, is popular for its strength and durability, making it a preferred choice for structural lumber.

Pine trees are also highly valued for their aesthetic and ecological importance. Many people appreciate the beauty of pine forests, which provide habitat for many animals and support a wide range of ecosystems. Pine trees are also highly adaptive and can thrive in various climates, making them an essential component of many forest ecosystems.

Spruce Trees

Spruce trees are a type of softwood tree that are part of the Pinaceae family. They are evergreen trees that are native to the northern temperate and boreal regions of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. There are about 35 different species of spruce trees, and they are widely used for a variety of purposes, including lumber, paper, and Christmas trees.

Spruce trees are typically tall and narrow, with a conical shape and a single, straight trunk. The branches grow outward in a whorled pattern, and the needles are arranged individually along the branches. The needles are usually sharp and stiff, and they range in color from bluish-green to dark green.

Spruce trees are commonly used for their wood, which is strong, lightweight, and easy to work with.In addition to their economic value, spruce trees also play an important ecological role. They provide habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including birds, mammals, and insects. They also help to stabilize soils and prevent erosion, and they contribute to the overall health of forest ecosystems.

Fir Trees

Fir trees are known for their tall, straight trunks, pointed needles, and conical shapes, and are commonly found in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Fir wood is typically light in color, ranging from pale yellow to reddish-brown, and has a straight grain with a fine, even texture.

The softwood of fir trees has several desirable properties that make it useful in a wide range of applications. For example, it is relatively easy to work with, as it can be cut, shaped, and machined with common woodworking tools. Fir wood is also known for its strength and durability, making it suitable for structural purposes such as in construction, furniture, and cabinetry. Additionally, fir wood has good dimensional stability, meaning it is less prone to shrinking, warping, or swelling compared to other types of wood, making it a popular choice for outdoor applications like decking, fencing, and siding.

Fir trees produce resin, a sticky substance that acts as a natural defense mechanism against insects and diseases. The resin in fir wood can give it added protection against decay and rot, making it more resistant to environmental factors and extending its lifespan.

Larch Trees

Larch trees, are native to northern parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are deciduous conifers, which means they shed their needles in the fall and regrow them in the spring. Larch trees are unique among conifers as they are the only ones that lose their needles in the winter, giving them a distinctive appearance.

Larch wood is relatively light and has a lower density compared to hardwoods. This makes it easier to work with, as it is less dense and softer, making it suitable for various applications. The lower density of larch wood also means that it is generally less heavy, which can be advantageous in certain situations, such as in construction or woodworking where weight may be a consideration.

In terms of color, larch wood has a wide range that varies from pale yellow to reddish-brown. The wood often exhibits an attractive grain pattern that adds to its aesthetic appeal. The color and grain of larch wood make it a sought-after material for furniture, flooring, and other interior applications where its natural beauty can be showcased.

Cedar Trees

Cedar trees are a type of softwood tree are commonly found in the northern hemisphere and are known for their strong, aromatic wood and their ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. They tend to grow faster and have a lighter, less dense wood than hardwood trees.

Cedar trees are generally loved for their wood, which is light in color and has a distinctive, pleasant smell. The wood is lightweight and easy to work with, making it a popular choice for furniture, construction, and other applications where ease of use and durability are important.

One of the most notable features of cedar wood is its natural resistance to decay and insect damage. This is due to the presence of natural oils and resins in the wood, which help to repel pests and protect the wood from moisture and rot.

Western Hemlock Trees

Western Hemlock is a coniferous tree species that is native to the west coast of North America, from Alaska to northern California. It is a member of the pine family and is classified as a softwood tree.

As a softwood tree, Western Hemlock has a number of characteristics that distinguish it from hardwood trees. It is lightweight and has a low specific gravity, which means it is less dense than water and will float. Despite its softness, Western Hemlock is known for its strength and durability, particularly when it comes to its ability to withstand weathering and decay.

Because of its softness and relative ease of working, Western Hemlock is commonly used in a variety of applications where a softer wood is desirable. It is often used for framing lumber, interior finish work, and millwork, such as molding and trim. It is also a popular choice for wood pulp and paper production, as well as for making plywood and other engineered wood products.

Yew Trees

Yew is a softwood tree that can grow up to 20 meters tall, with a trunk diameter of up to one meter. Yew trees are widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and North America and are known for their attractive foliage, unique appearance, and valuable timber.

Although yew trees are classified as softwoods, their wood is actually quite dense and hard, which makes it highly resistant to wear and tear. Yew wood is also known for its elasticity, making it a popular choice for use in making bows, as well as other items that require flexibility, such as tool handles, boat building, and furniture making.

Cypress Trees

The Cypress tree, also known as Cupressus is an evergreen tree that is commonly found in the Mediterranean region, North America, and parts of Asia. One of the distinctive features of the Cypress tree is its narrow, conical shape that can grow up to 40 meters in height. The tree has a straight trunk with a diameter of up to 2 meters, and its bark is grayish-brown in color and scaly. Cypress trees have needle-like leaves that are arranged in a spiral pattern along the branches. The leaves are usually green or blue-green in color and can stay on the tree for several years.

The Cypress tree is considered a softwood tree because its wood is less dense and more flexible than that of hardwood trees like oak or maple. Their wood is commonly used for construction, paper, and furniture. The wood of the Cypress tree is known for its durability and resistance to decay, which makes it a popular choice for outdoor applications like fencing, decking, and siding. The wood is also used in the construction of boats, musical instruments, and decorative items like carvings and sculptures.

Redwood Trees

Redwood trees are a type of softwood tree that are native to the west coast of North America, specifically California and Oregon. They are some of the tallest trees in the world and can grow up to 350 feet tall and over 22 feet in diameter. Redwood trees have reddish-brown bark and their straight, tall trunks that are mostly free of branches until the top.

The wood of the redwood tree is used in a variety of applications, including construction, furniture, and outdoor decking. It is also used in the production of paper and other wood products.

Redwood trees are an important species for the ecosystem, providing habitat for a variety of animals and insects, as well as contributing to the overall health and stability of the forest ecosystem. While they have been heavily logged in the past, efforts are underway to protect and preserve these magnificent trees for future generations to enjoy.

Juniper Trees

Juniper is a genus of about 70 species of evergreen trees and shrubs that are found in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Juniper trees are typically small to medium-sized and can grow up to 40 feet tall. They have a conical or columnar shape and are often used as ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes.

The leaves of juniper trees are needle-like or scale-like and are usually arranged in pairs or whorls along the branches. The bark is thin and peels off in long strips.

Juniper wood is also used in a variety of applications, including furniture, flooring, and fence posts. It is known for its durability and resistance to decay, making it a popular choice for outdoor use. The wood is also often used for smoking meats and fish, as it imparts a distinctive flavor.

Cryptomeria Trees

Cryptomeria is a type of softwood tree that is native to East Asia, particularly in China and Japan. Cryptomeria is also known by several other common names, including Japanese cedar, sugi, and false arborvitae. The tree can grow up to 70 meters tall and has a trunk diameter of up to 4 meters. The bark of the tree is reddish-brown in color and has a fibrous texture.

One of the unique features of cryptomeria is its foliage, which consists of needle-like leaves arranged in a spiral pattern on the branches. The leaves are typically green in color but can turn bronze or reddish-brown in colder months.

Cryptomeria is a popular tree species for commercial forestry due to its fast growth rate and straight, tall trunks. The wood of the tree is lightweight and durable, making it ideal for use in construction, furniture-making, and paper production. In Japan, the wood of the cryptomeria tree has been traditionally used for building temples and shrines.

Cryptomeria is also grown as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens due to its attractive foliage and elegant appearance.


Wood can be broadly classified into two main groups: softwood and hardwoods. The terms ‘softwood’ and ‘hardwood’ do not indicate softness or hardness of particular timbers. Some hardwoods are actually softer and lighter than softwoods. Mountain-grown Douglas Fir, for example, produces an extremely hard wood although it is classified as a softwood, and Balsawood is classified as a hardwood although it is very soft. Softwood and hardwood normally differ from each other in terms of the botanic structure of the wood. The dominant feature separating hardwoods from softwoods is the presence of pores or vessels in the former.