Comparison of Cross-Field Pitting in Fresh, Dried and Charcoalified Softwoods

in IAWA Journal

Cross-field pitting is one of the most reliable characters for softwood identification. During charcoalification, a range of severe qualitative and quantitative modifications may occur in cross-field pitting. As most fossil or archaeological wood remains are preserved as charcoal (fusain), the question arises whether these modifications hamper the accurate identification of some taxa. This work is a systematic biometric study of a wide range of gymnosperm cross-field pitting after experimental charcoalification. We focused on the window-like, piceoid, taxodioid, cupressoid, araucarioid and podocarpoid cross-field pitting types. Our main results are the following: 1) Cross-field pits of wood specimens dried out before charcoalification are hidden by a thin closing wall; in this case, it is often impossible to discriminate between the various types of cross-field pitting. 2) Piceoid cross-field pitting becomes taxodioid-like after charcoalification. 3) Biometric study of charred softwood cross-field pitting dimensions shows that the ratios between height and width of pit aperture and border allow us to distinguish and characterise four types of pitting (window-like, piceoid, taxodioid, cupressoid +araucarioid +podocarpoid [= CAP]). The discrimination within the CAP type requires further investigation.

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