The anatomy of tension wood and opposite wood was compared in 21 tropical rain forest trees from 21 species belonging to 18 families from French Guyana. Wood specimens were taken from the upper and lower sides of naturally tilted trees. Measurement of the growth stress level ensured that the two samples were taken from wood tissues in a different mechanical state: highly tensile-stressed wood on the upper side, called tension wood and normally tensile-stressed wood on the lower side, called opposite wood. Quantitative parameters relating to fibres and vessels were measured on transverse sections of both tension and opposite wood to check if certain criteria can easily discriminate the two kinds of wood. We observed a decrease in the frequency of vessels in the tension wood in all the trees studied. Other criteria concerning shape and surface area of the vessels, fibre diameter or cell wall thickness did not reveal any general trend. At the ultrastructural level, we observed that the microfibril angle in the tension wood sample was lower than in opposite wood in all the trees except one (Licania membranacea).