DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Balsa wood (cross section) showing large conductive elements (Ochroma pyramidale), scanning electron micrograph (SEM). Ochroma pyramidale is a genus of flowering tree in the family Malvaceae (mallow). Ochroma pyramidale (formerly known as Ochroma lagopus) which is known as the balsa tree. It is a large, fast growing tree that can grow up to 100 feet. Balsa wood is a very lightweight material with many uses. Balsa trees are native to southern Brazil and Bolivia north to southern Mexico. Balsa lumber is very soft and light, with a coarse, open grain. The wood of the living tree has large conductive cells that are filled with water. This gives the wood a spongy texture. It also makes the wood of the living tree not much lighter than water and barely able to float. For commercial production, the wood is kiln-dried for about two weeks, leaving the cells hollow. Magnification: x28 when shortest axis printed at 25 millimetres.
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