Potential contributions of figured wood to the practice of sustainable forestry
The birdseye grain of sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) can showcase the potential of figured wood in sustainable forestry. This poorly understood but valuable grain abnormality commands such a premium that its presence alone can influence timber management. Good forestry and logging practices can help assure that quality birdseye maple logs are not relegated to low-value uses. Birdseye specialty markets have also developed, creating opportunities for pieces of small or irregular dimensions. Even though few have the same promise as birdseye maple, figured grains are found in virtually every tree species, thus increasing the potential for other high-value niche markets. However, the relative rarity and slow formation of figured grains threaten their sustainability, until more research on their genetics, propagation, and silviculture becomes available.