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Why Is Wood So... Woody?

Wood is truly an amazing substance. Relatively light, very strong for its weight, elastic, capable of being shaped to an extraordinary degree. Why is wood so... woody?

Wood Handbook, FPL-GTR-113: Forest Products Laboratory. 1999. Wood handbook--Wood as an engineering material. Gen. Tech. Rep. FPL-GTR-113. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 463 p.

It seems clear that competition between plants has a bunch to do with it: whatever plants can get their leaves higher and wider spread has a big advantage in photosynthesis and thus in fitness. It seems pretty clear that wind has a bunch to do with it: wind can put great stresses on plants--especially those that reach high and are widely spread.

But I really do wish that by now somebody had told me why wood is so... woody.

Tomorrow: I also wish someone would tell me why doping iron with carbon atoms changes its properties so much...