Softwood is wood from gymnosperm trees such as pines and spruces. Softwoods are not necessarily softer than hardwoods. In both groups there is an enormous variation in actual wood hardness, the range of density in hardwoods completely including that of softwoods. Some hardwoods (e.g. balsa) are softer than most softwoods, while the hardest hardwoods are much harder than any softwood. The woods of longleaf pine, Douglas fir, and yew are much harder in the mechanical sense than several hardwoods.
Softwoods are generally most used by the construction industry and are also used to produce paper pulp, and card products. In many of these applications, there is a constant need for density and thickness monitoring and gamma-ray sensors have shown good performance in this case.
Certain species of softwood are more resistant to insect attack from woodworm, as certain insects prefer damp hardwood.
Softwood is the source of about 80% of the world's production of timber, with traditional centres of production being the Baltic region (including Scandinavia and Russia), North America and China. Softwood is typically used in construction as structural carcassing timber, as well as finishing timber.