Heartwood vs. Sapwood

The difference between heartwood and sapwood is that heartwood is the region of the tree that is dead whereas sapwood is the region of the tree that is alive.

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Heartwood vs. Sapwood

Trees are the essential part of our environment. Heartwood and sapwood are two regions of the tree. Heartwood is dead part of tree whereas sapwood is living part of the tree. As heartwood is dead part of the tree that is why it is darker than sapwood and sapwood is a live part of the tree that is why is lighter than heartwood. There are dead cells in heartwood and living cells in the sapwood. The part that makes tree strong is heartwood.

Heartwood is also known as duramen and sapwood is also known as laburnum. As the result of the chemical transformation, heartwood becomes hard and dead. Heartwood is the inner part of the tree whereas sapwood is the outer part of the tree. If we talk about the function of sapwood, its purpose is to transfer water from the roots to leaves this is one of the most critical jobs of sapwood. The water that is transferred to blades from roots is stored in leaves. Amount of heartwood is more than sapwood in the tree. At the start all woods are sapwoods.

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There are bark cells in the tree that are known as cambium; these cells are inside and outside of the tree. A new layer of bark cells that are cambium are added after some years. In growing years the layer cambium cells are thick.  Sapwood is formed that is the outermost part of the tree. Sapwood has active cells that keep growing. If we talk about the stem, there are less sapwood in the stem than heartwood. This does not vary with the type of tree. There is more moisture in sapwood than in heartwood. In the growing age of the tree, sapwood is found in abundance, as the tree gets old heartwood can be seen more.

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Comparision Chart

Basis HeartwoodSapwood
Meaning Heartwood is the region of the tree that is dead.Sapwood is the region of the tree that is alive. 
RegionThe central region of an old tree.The outer region of an old tree.
Texture Heartwood is hard.Sapwood is soft.
Cells Dead cellsLiving cells
Function Mechanical supportTransfer water from roots to leaves.

 What is Heartwood?

Due to the decay of cells heartwood is formed, heartwood is known as duramen and can be formed naturally or can be formed by some chemical changes. Heartwood has dead cells. When the tree is young, there is less number of heartwood as compared to sapwood. When the tree becomes old the amount of heartwood becomes more. The central section of the tree is known as heartwood. As transformation living cells grow dead, but they remain intact with tree and provide mechanical support. The heartwood is darker than sapwood because of dead cells. In woody plants, we can find heartwood. The central part of the tree is defined as heartwood. There are two types of regions in the tree that is the dead part that is heartwood and living part that is sapwood. Due to chemical transformation, dead cells are produced that is called heartwood. Heartwood provides support to the tree and makes the tree hard and strong. The outer part of the tree is called sapwood that is in the process of decaying and becoming heartwood.  If we talk about the use of heartwood, heartwood is used in the construction because of its hardness and strength. Heartwood is also very expensive. Heartwood is also very famous for its unique colours.

What is Sapwood?

The living part of the tree is known as sapwood and is also known as alburnum. Sapwood is the living cells and is the outermost part of the tree. Sapwood function is one of the primary purposes of the tree as it transports water from roots to leaves. As compared to heartwood, sapwood is thinner. Sapwood has living cells that are known as cambium. Each year new layer of cambium cells grow. The role of these cells to transport water and minerals through the roots of the tree. People do not use sapwood for the construction has it has a lot of moisture. Woodworkers in most case remove sapwood and use heartwood because heartwood is best for construction purposes especially the development of furniture.

Key Differences

  1. Heartwood is the region of the tree that is dead. Sapwood is the region of the tree that is alive.
  2. The central region of an old tree. The outer region of an old tree.
  3. The function of heartwood is to provide mechanical support and strength whereas the function of sapwood is to provide water from roots to leaves and then to store that water in leaves.
  4. Heartwood is hard whereas sapwood is soft.
  5. Heartwood is used in construction whereas sapwood is not used in construction.


In the article above we saw the clear difference between sapwood and heartwood. If we compare both, we can see that the function of sapwood in the tree is vital but for man use heartwood is perfect.

Explanatory Video

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