Any plant experts here ( Gentetics)

I build bows and arrows as a hobby and I compete in international flight shooting events. The fastest bows break world records. I build what is known as primitive class bows meaning all natural materials ( Wood). We have certain woods we favor 1 in particular called osage orange. Most osage is good bow wood but some of it is exceptional, it bends more without loosing its shape and takes less wood to make a bow. The really good stuff has a high stiffness per mass ratio as well as high elasticity. What I am wondering is this due to where the tree grew and how it grew or more likely that individual trees genetics? I do have geographical areas that I favor when buying wood but very often most of the wood I have gotten from that state may have very well come off the same tree. I have no way of knowing.

Could the DNA of a very good piece of wood be analyzed somehow?

IANAB (Botanist), but from what I’ve read it’s likely a combination of where the tree happens to be growing plus it’s genetic potential, although my guess is that most trees of the same species, living in the same general area, are probably generically very similar.

Whether you could find a ‘golden tree’, perform a DNA analysis, and compare it to a bunch of other trees to see if there is a match is only half of it since growing conditions can change dramatically if trees are only 500 yards away from each other. So you have to factor in growing conditions somehow, which change all the time.

BTW, do you collect branches to make bows or do you have to cut down an entire tree? I make walking sticks as a hobby and I’m always looking for the best branches I can find… but it’s not a competition.

Certainly plant DNA can be analysed and matched to other samples - and you could probably identify regional variations in DNA in the same way that genetics can sort-of-identify geographic ancestry of people. DNA has been used to prove that plant material snagged on the clothes or vehicles of suspects came from a specific plant at the crime scene.

Quality and properties of most timber is going to be influenced by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. My gut feeling is that environment probably makes more difference to the timber than genetics, within a species. Slower growth tends to yield denser timber, but I don’t think there’s going to be any sort of very general set of rules that spans all species allowing you to predict the properties of the timber given the conditions - different species are going to react in different ways.

We cut down the entire tree, usually about an 8" min diameter. Very hard pretty wood, nice for walking sticks. Bright yellow when worked fresh but continues to darken for decades to an almost black color. The first 20 years it will be an ever deepening shade of honey brown. 4 year old bows look about like a dark honey color.

So I might be better off the do a chemical analysis on the wood itself and if possible the soil and weather it was grown in. I tend to favor wood from Michigan and Ohio. It grows profusely throughout the Midwest but most of the wood is not as good. California has produced some good wood as well. The southern states all have good wood but for some reason the two states I mentioned seem closer to super wood.

Osage Orange is “ring porous” as opposed to “diffuse porous”. If I remember my Hoadley correctly, that means the faster growing trees are the strongest. Other trees which are diffuse porous are strongest with closer growth rings, i.e. slow growing.

In a ring porous wood, the first growth each year contains the pores and is weaker, and the remainder of the wood the tree adds each year has few pores, and is thus stronger. A fast growing tree has a higher percentage of non-porous wood.

So you would want a tree in an ideal climate for that species, growing apart from others for full sunlight and straight growth.


Yeah, or take samples from a variety of environs and test them for the mechanical and macroscopic qualities you prefer, then try to plot it against the actual conditions.