Q: Why is there such an abrupt change in color between heartwood and sapwood in species like black cherry, walnut, and hickory? David Brumsickle, Silverdale, WA A: The dramatic change in color is related to the tree’s growth. As new sapwood is created, old sapwood dies and becomes heartwood. Pigmented organic substances called extractives form in the dead cells, giving the heartwood its darker color. And because the line between life and death is abrupt, so too is the change in color between sapwood and heartwood. As you can see in the picture above, the contrast between heartwood and sapwood found in some woods, like hickory (bowl), crabapple (log), and cherry (board), can make for a dramatic and attractive look in turnings and furniture.
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