7 Difference between Compression Wood and Tension Wood (With Table)

Mature wood usually has unique growth patterns and reaction properties. The reaction wood occurs due to environmental factors like wind, pressure, climate, the force of gravity, and more. 

These unique growth patterns are witnessed on tree trunks and branches. Changes in these environmental factors result in compression and tension wood. 

So, what is the main difference between compression wood and tension wood? The former is formed on the lower side of the trunk while the latter on the upper side of the trunk. 

This article provides detailed insight into the differences between compression wood and tension wood. The purpose is to provide deeper insight and understanding. 

Comparison Table (Compression Vs Tension Wood)

Basic Term

Compression Wood

Tension Wood


Develops on the lower side of the leaning part trunk

Develop on the upper side of the leaning trunk.

Amount of Cellulose




Softwood like pines

Hardwoods like oaks

Reaction of Wood




Lengthening and straightening bends

Prevent branch from bending or drooping due to pulling force

Examples of Wood


Mango woods

Type of Plants



What Is Compression Wood?

Compression wood is a reaction of the wood that tends to occur in the conifer’s lower side of the trunk. The wood has a lot of lignin materials and this is probably the reason why they are strong.

Besides that, the wood does not have a pith in the center but way above the center point which helps to indicate development.

Compression wood is normally formed in that region that bears more pressure on a tree. If the wood experiences bending and cracking then compression is not likely to form.

Therefore, compression wood help to lengthen and straighten the bend in a wood. This is quite vital in maintaining a certain angle of the bend.

What Is Tension Wood?

Tension wood is a reaction of the wood that occurs mostly in dicots especially on the upper part of the trunk that experiences bending.

The good news is that tension wood tends to contain a lot of cellulose than compression wood and this helps them to resist bending.

Most hardwoods tend to contain tension wood which helps the plant from experiencing drooping or bending of their branches.

The reaction of the wood normally occurs on plants that frequently experience pulling force to offer support.

Differences Between Compression and Tension Wood

  1. A compression wood reaction occurs in conifers of the lower side of the trunk while tension wood occurs on the upper side of the leaning trunk.
  2. Compression wood has a little amount of cellulose when compared to tension wood cellulose.
  3. Tension wood is quite common in gymnosperms while compression wood in angiosperms.
  4. Compression wood is quite common in conifers like pines while tension wood in mango plants.
  5. Tension wood help to prevent the branch from drooping due to pulling force while compression wood offer lengthening and straightening effects on bends.

Similarities Between Compression and Tension Wood

  1. Both are reaction wood
  2. Both happen in trees
  3. Both contain cellulose 

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Compression and tension wood play vital roles in respective plants. They somehow have some close similarities and minimal differences as stated above.

I hope the information was useful in your study. Take your time to share your views or experience in the comment section below. Thank you.

More Sources and References

  1. Lignification and Tension Wood. Research Gate

  2. Reaction Wood. Landscape Plants 

  3. Reaction Wood. Wikipedia 

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