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The ultrastructural organization of the outer layer of the secondary wall (i.e. S1 layer) of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) compression wood tracheids was investigated with emphasis on the microfibril angle. Light microscopy was used to study the orientation of soft rot cavities (viz. microfibril angle) in compression wood tracheids from macerated soft rot degraded wood blocks. In addition, surface and fracture characteristics of compression wood tracheids selected from a thermomechanical pulp were investigated using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Results showed that the orientation of soft rot cavities varied little between tracheids and the angles were also consistent along the length of individual tracheids. The average S1 microfibril angle in two selected annual rings was 90.0° ± 2.7° and 88.9° ± 2.4° respectively. SEM observations of the compression wood tracheids from the pulp showed distinct fractures between S1 and S2 or within S1 and these fractures were oriented perpendicular to the tracheid axis. It was concluded that the microfibril angle of the S1 layer of compression wood tracheids is higher and less variable than normal wood tracheids. This is considered an adaptation for restraining the compressive forces that act on leaning conifer stems or branches.


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