In woodworking terminology, the term “softwood” is not strictly a term referring to hardness, but rather to the botanical designation of the trees from which the wood comes. In short, softwoods are conifers (cone-bearing plants)—while hardwoods are classified as flowering plants (angiosperms). For practicality’s sake, it just so happens that most conifers happen to yield fairly soft wood, so the name “softwood” is generally applied, though not always strictly correct. (For instance, Balsa is a flowering plant, and is technically considered a hardwood.) 

Families of conifers






Characteristics of the wood of conifers

One unique property of softwoods is that they do not contain pores like hardwoods do. When attempting to ID any softwood, the first thing to look for is resin canals. (See article link below for more info.)

Softwood anatomy for ID