Facts on Alberta wood species

The properties and diversity of Alberta’s softwood and hard wood species enables the industry to produce a variety of forest products for interior and exterior uses, offering immense versatility, beauty and superior structural strength.

Click on the title of each wood species to download a detailed pdf about the type of wood.

White Spruce
Key Products: Dimension lumber, Softwood Plywood

The species is acknowledged as one of Alberta’s most valuable commercial species. It accounts for 30% of the province’s total forest inventory, and 48% of Alberta’s merchantable volume of coniferous growing stock.

As lumber, white spruce is extremely versatile because of its high strength to weight ratio. It is used in building construction (framing, sheathing, roofing and sub-flooring), general millwork, interior finishing, boxes and packing cases. It is also used in the manufacture of medium density fibreboard (MDF), paperboard and felt, and it is a major species used in Canadian softwood plywood.

Other uses of white spruce include: sounding boards in musical instruments from select materials, food containers (because it is almost colorless and odourless when dried), paddles and oars, cooperage, organ pipes, shelving and ladder rails.

Black Spruce
Key Products: Dimension lumber

In Alberta, Black Spruce accounts for 130 million m3 or 15% of the provinces forest inventory. It is used for light and medium construction, boxes and crates. Because it is heavier, stronger and harder than white spruce, it is used for mine timbers. It has exceptional resonance qualities, therefore, it is used in the manufacturing of sounding boards for musical instruments.

Jack Pine
Key Products: Dimension lumber

Pines in Canada can be classified into two groups: soft pines and hard pines. Both lodgepole pine and jack pine are hard pines. They have prominent latewood, therefore, the wood is moderately hard and heavy. In Alberta, pine accounts for nearly 616 million m3 or 41% of the provincial coniferous growing stock.

Jack pine is an important lumber species and is used in building construction as framing, sheathing, scaffolding and interior woodwork. Jack pine is also used for boxes and crates. Other uses include power poles, railroad ties and treated posts.

Lodgepole Pine
Key products: Dimension lumber, Laminated veneer lumber (LVL)

Pines in Canada can be classified into two groups: soft pines and hard pines. Both lodgepole pine and jack pine are hard pines. They have prominent latewood, therefore, the wood is moderately hard and heavy. In Alberta, pine accounts for nearly 616 million m3 or 41% of the provincial coniferous growing stock.

Lodgepole pine is a good species for the manufacture of composite board due to its suitable wood density, a tendency to plasticize when compressed at high temperatures yielding panels with a smooth surface, its gluing ease, and its uniform density. Lodgepole pine is firmly established as a first class joinery wood for furniture, windows, doors and shutters, panelling, siding, mouldings, and other architectural millwork and joinery items. Other uses of lodgepole pine include telephone poles, fence posts and corral rails (because of its small diameter and lack of taper), mine timbers, railway ties and fuel.

Balsam Fir
Key products: Dimensional lumber, Cooperage

In Alberta, balsam fir accounts for a small percentage of the province’s softwood inventory – approximately 3%. Balsam fir’s light color, straight grain and small tight knots contribute to the species’ suitability for use as dimension lumber. It is also used for cooperage for sugar and butter tubs (because of the absence of objectionable taste and resinous materials than might taint), container veneer, boxes and crates, pallets, particleboard, and plywood.

Tamarack
Key products: Posts, Ties

Tamarack accounts for 0.2% of Alberta’s softwood inventory. The wood of tamarack is ideal for outdoor furniture products (as it has proven to be stronger and less brittle than cedar, it has a better defined grain than teak, and it is more resistant to decay than pine). Because the wood is heavy, durable and decay-resistant, it is also used for posts, poles, mine timbers and railroad ties and, less commonly, for rough lumber, fuel wood, boxes and crates.

Trembling Aspen
Key products: Oriented Strandboard, Oriented Strand Lumber, Laminated Veneer Lumber

Once referred to as a “weed”, trembling aspen is a huge and hidden hardwood resource, and constitutes 81% of Alberta’s hardwood inventory. It is the most commonly used species for Oriented Strandboard (OSB). Aspen is suitable for the production of high quality LVL for use as headers, joists, beams and planks. The species is also used extensively in the pallet and container industry in Alberta and well as for plywood.

Balsam Poplar
Key products: Pallets, Crating, Oriented Strandboard

Balsam poplar comprises about 6% of Alberta’s total forest inventory and 15.1% of Alberta’s hardwood inventory. Lumber produced from balsam poplar is used for light-frame construction, pallets, boxes, crates and furniture parts. It is also used to manufacture veneer, plywood, particleboard, OSB and waferboard.

White Birch
Key products: Hardwood lumber, Flooring, Pallets, Crating, Millwork

Within Alberta, white birch constitutes 3.6% of the provinces hardwood inventory and 1.3% of the total forest inventory. Furniture, cabinets, flooring and other millwork items are made from birch lumber and veneers. The species has long been a favourite of the wood turning industry for products such as bobbins, clothespins, spools, broom handles, dowels, shoe shanks, pegs and toys. It is also well suited for making ice cream sticks, picnic spoons and toothpicks because it is uniform in texture, has a smooth and white appearance and no odour or taste. White birch is used for lumber, veneer, plywood and has commonly been used as fireplace and wood stove fuel because it has a high heating value.

Contact

Gordon Giles, Section Manager, Forest Industry Sustainability Section, Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development