Assessing Wood from Hurricane-Downed Trees in Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria made landfall in September 2017, the storm left hundreds of thousands of downed trees in its wake. Many of the trees were species with commercially valuable wood, but which ones?

A huge pile of logs from hurricane-downed trees in Puerto Rico.
Wood from hurricane-downed trees in Puerto Rico. Species identification was needed to decide how to best use or dispose of the material.

To find out, an assessment of the post-hurricane wood, stored at 21 different locations around the island, was requested by Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, or DNER. The Federal Emergency Management Agency supported this request through the Natural and Cultural Resources Recovery Support Function.  The Department of the Interior contacted the USDA Forest Service, and scientists Mike Wiemann of the Forest Products Laboratory and William Gould from the International Institute of Tropical Forestry developed an assessment of the species mix and log quality of the downed trees.

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“A Miniature Forest of All the World’s Forests”: FPL Contributes to University of Bristol Art Installation

The United Kingdom’s University of Bristol recently premiered an exhibit by artist Katie Paterson with help from the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). Contributions from FPL and numerous xylaria, herbaria, arboretums, and collectors from around the world were gathered to create Hollow, which is made of more than 10,000 unique tree species.

hollowSpanning millions of years, Hollow is a miniature forest of all the world’s forests. The exterior cluster structure reflects a forest canopy’s ecosystem, the forms of the Douglas fir posts reflecting the varying heights of trees. The interior of Hollow tells the history of the planet, from petrified wood fossils from the earliest forests that emerged 390 million years ago to the most recent emergent species.

As the home of the world’s largest research wood collection, which contains more than 103,000 samples, FPL was a natural source for Paterson’s project. FPL contributed cherry, ash, yellow poplar, red oak, white oak, sugar maple, myrtlewood, tan oak, Pacific madrone, Eastern white pine, Eastern hemlock, spruce, Northern white cedar, and Douglas fir to help Paterson breathe life into the installation.

Paterson gathered fossilized samples as well, including the Indian Banyan Tree, which accompanied Buddha on his journey to enlightenment.  Even the Japanese Ginko tree, a species that survived the bombing of Hiroshima, makes an appearance.

“Some samples are incredibly rare,” Paterson said. “Fossils of unfathomable age and fantastical trees such as Cedar of Lebanon, the Phoenix Palm, and the Methuselah tree, thought to be one of the oldest trees in the world, at 4,487 years of age” are featured.

The artist also incorporated pieces of recent history with the addition of segments from the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Hollow is the result of three years of collaboration among Paterson, architectural firm Zeller & Moye, and Bristol-based art producers Situations. Commissioned by the University of Bristol, the artwork premiered in honor of the university’s multi-million dollar Life Sciences building, opened by British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough in late 2014.

To learn more about Hollow and Paterson’s other projects, visit

Blog post by Francesca Yracheta