Research and data on forest commodity supply chains and policy

Chart of U.S. white oak lumber imports 2019

According to the USDA, “White Oak” lumber was imported into the United States from 16 different countries in 2019.

_White Oak_ lumber imports into the U.S. in 2019 (m3)

But it’s unclear what species where included in this “White Oak” designation.

While the USDA labels this data “White Oak”, the accompanying Harmonized Tariff Schedule code (4407910063) is defined in HTS Section XI as Quercus spp. “other” than “Red Oak”.

This means that many species that belong to the genus Quercus, and that the USDA does not consider to be a “Red Oak”, could fall into this category.

Which brings us to some key points:

  1. When you buy something made of “White Oak” wood in the U.S., there’s a chance that the lumber originated in another country.
  2. Common trade names like “White Oak” can be useless, if not misleading, when trying to understand the species of wood that a product is made from.

If you want a better understanding of the supply chain(s) you are supporting when buying White Oak flooring, cabinets, shelving, or even lumber, you’ll need to request information on the species and origin of the lumber.

Oh, and if you ever find yourself in the eastern hardwood forests of North America, here’s what the leaves of the Quercus alba tree species look like – a species often referred to as “White Oak”… just not the only “White Oak” you may find in the marketplace.

Photo: Bruce Kirchoff

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