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Structure–function relationships of four compression wood types: micromechanical properties at the tissue and fibre level


The mechanisms behind compressive stress generation in gymnosperms are not yet fully understood. Investigating the structure–function relationships at the tissue and cell level, however, can provide new insights. Severe compression wood of all species lacks a S3 layer, has a high microfibril angle in the S2 layer and a high lignin content. Additionally, special features like helical cavities or spiral thickenings appear, which are not well understood in terms of their mechanical relevance, but need to be examined with regard to evolutionary trends in compression wood development. Thin compression wood foils and isolated tracheids of four gymnosperm species [Ginkgo biloba L., Taxus baccata L., Juniperus virginiana L., Picea abies (L.) Karst.] were investigated. The tracheids were isolated mechanically by peeling them out of the solid wood using fine tweezers. In contrast to chemical macerations, the cell wall components remained in their original condition. Tensile properties of tissue foils and tracheids were measured in a microtensile apparatus under wet conditions. Our results clearly show an evolutionary trend to a much more flexible compression wood. An interpretation with respect to compressive stress generation is discussed.

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This work was supported by the “Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)”, Project P14331-PHY. This paper is dedicated to Prof. Dr. D. Eckstein on the occasion of his 65th birthday.

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Correspondence to Ingo Burgert.

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Burgert, I., Frühmann, K., Keckes, J. et al. Structure–function relationships of four compression wood types: micromechanical properties at the tissue and fibre level. Trees 18, 480–485 (2004).

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  • Compression wood
  • Microtensile tests
  • Tissue foils
  • Single fibres (tracheids)
  • Evolutionary development