Microscopic Examination of Wood: Sample Preparation and Techniques for Light Microscopy

  • Jacques C. Tardif
  • France Conciatori


The need to produce high-quality thin sections of wood material encompasses many fields of scientific investigations. We present here an overview of some of the techniques used to produce high-quality thin sections of woody stems. The detailed information provided in this chapter covers sample preparation including softening procedures, sectioning using a microtome as well as basic staining, dehydration, clearing, and mounting procedures. The procedures described do not require embedding of the stem material prior to sectioning. An update on new developments in wood anatomy of tree rings, as well as information on frequent problems and advice on how to solve them, is also provided. The methods presented can be used in both systematic and practical anatomical studies using reflected and transmitted light microscopy and where photomicrography or image analysis is needed.


Microtome Growth ring Mounting Light microscopy Softening Staining Stem anatomy Thin section Wood anatomy 



We thank Dr. H. Gärtner for providing constructive comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. We are also thankful to the numerous undergraduate students who participated over the years in the dendrochronology course at the University of Winnipeg and also to both undergraduate and graduate students who participated in research or completed a thesis related to anatomical characteristics of tree rings. We thank Dr. F. Schweingruber for communicating his passion about wood/stem anatomy . We also thank the biology department technicians L. Buchanan and B. Van Dekerkhove for providing assistance and the librarians of the University of Winnipeg for tracking down rare books and journals, and securing them through inter-library loan.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Forest Interdisciplinary Research (C-FIR), Departments of Biology/Environmental Studies and SciencesUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada

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