5 Questions About Wormy Maple Wood

Beth Rice 11/08/2022

Have you heard about wormy maple wood? It’s got a fascinating little story that took it from a wood that beetles were buggin’ in to a sought-after wood type for fine furniture.

Here we cover the facts with 5 questions about wormy maple wood.

Why is it called wormy maple wood?

Wormy maple (also known as Ambrosia maple)  is so named due to small beetles boring into the wood. They deposit larvae causing discoloration of the wood, unique streaks and wormholes. The discoloration and staining reveals the path of the beetles, as they create unique markings on the wood. These paths that take form resemble tiger stripes. Ambrosia beetles carry a fungus on their feet that feeds the larvae once they hatch. Their invasion actually results in the unique and stunning patterns you see in wormy maple wood. The culprit at the heart of the “creative” destruction is the Ambrosia beetle. For this reason, wormy maple is also referred to as Ambrosia maple or Ambrosia wood.

What does wormy maple wood look like?

The colors and patterns of wormy maple include creamy white sapwood and tan colored heartwood with various green, gray or dark brown streaks located near small worm holes. The discoloration is caused by the fungi on the beetles feet leaving the discolored trails or stripes. No two wormy maple wood boards are alike, adding even more distinction to the wood.

Is wormy maple strong enough to make good furniture?

It’s considered a slightly softer hardwood, but it’s plenty strong and durable.

Wormy maple has a Janka hardness rating of 940, which is considered a softer hardwood. (Cherry wood has a Janka rating of 950) . The fact that the beetles have been there does not affect the performance or strength of wormy maple wood. The wood is kiln dried to prepare it to be used in furniture, and that takes care of any pests in the wood. Wormy maple has good steam bending properties and works well with hand and power tools.

*The Janka Hardness Test measures the force required to embed a .444-inch small steel ball to half its diameter into a piece of wood.

Ruff Sawn Muskoka Saddle Stool
The Ruff Sawn Muskoka Saddle Stool in rough sawn wormy maple adds a rustic look.

What is wormy maple used for?

At the top of the list is wood furniture. It’s also used for flooring, paneling, miscellaneous crafts and guitars.

Is wormy maple a type of tree?

Wormy maple is not a type of tree. The wormy maple occurrence, if you will, with its wormy paths and discolorations is found in maple trees, particularly the soft maple species. The “wormy” comes from the invasion of the ambrosia beetles that add to the name.

Ruff Sawn Twin Falls Two Drawer Nightstand
The Ruff Sawn Twin Falls Two Drawer Nightstand makes wormy maple’s pathways look chic.

Wormy maple wood, once considered defective, has now gained new fame as a unique, decorative furniture wood. What do you think of wormy maple? Is it a wood type you would choose for new solid wood furniture?

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