The heartwood of many wood species is rich in extractives, which improve the wood material’s resistance to biological attack. Their concentration is generally higher in outer than inner heartwood, but the exact radial changes in aging heartwood remain poorly characterized. This investigation studied these radial changes in detail in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), using radial sample sequences prepared from three different trees. Stilbene and resin acid contents were first measured from bulk samples, after which the extractive contents of individual heartwood annual rings were investigated using Raman spectroscopy and fluorescence microscopy. Raman imaging and fluorescence microscopy were also used to study the cellular level distributions of extractives in different annual rings. Although there were substantial differences between the trees, the content and distribution of stilbenes seemed to follow a general radial trend. The results suggest that stilbenes are absorbed into heartwood tracheid cell walls from small stilbene-rich extractive deposits over several years and then eventually transform into non-extractable compounds in aging heartwood. Resin acids followed no consistent radial trends, but their content was strongly connected to the frequency of large extractive deposits in latewood tracheid lumens. The results highlight the variability of heartwood extractives: their content and distribution vary not only between trees but also between and even within the annual rings of a single tree. This high variability is likely to have important effects on the properties of heartwood and the utilization of heartwood timber.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: