Secondary xylem (wood) fulfills many of the functions required for tree survival, such as transport of water and nutrients, storage of water and assimilates, and mechanical support. The evolutionary process has optimized tree structure to maximize survival of the species, but has not necessarily optimized the wood properties needed for lumber. Under the impact of global warming, knowledge about structure-function relationships in tree trunks will become more and more important in order to prognosticate survival prospects of a species, individuals or provenances. Increasing our knowledge on functional wood anatomy can also provide valuable input for the development of reliable, fast, and at best quasi-non-destructive (e.g. wood coring of mature trunks) indirect screening techniques for drought susceptibility of woody species. This review gives an interdisciplinary update of our present knowledge on hydraulic and biomechanical determinants of wood structure within and among trunks of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.), which is one of Europe’s economically most important forest tree species. It summarizes what we know so far on 1) withinring variability of hydraulic and mechanical properties, 2) structure-function relationships in mature wood, 3) mechanical and hydraulic demands and their tradeoffs along tree trunks, and 4) the quite complex wood structure of the young trunk associated with mechanical demands of a small tree. Due to its interdisciplinary nature this review is addressed to physiologists, foresters, tree breeders and wood technologists.