Difference Between Forest & Woods

KodyWallice

Active member
I went hiking this afternoon in the forest or woods and while I was there, I began thinking to myself, "What's the difference between these things? You know, a forest and the woods?" I mean, I've heard of both "areas," I guess you could call them, all my life, but I never actually gave it much thought. I have always considered a forest as having enormous trees that go on and on forever. And I've always thought of the woods as being behind someone's house in a neighborhood. I don't think I'm too far all with my descriptions because, wouldn't you know it, there is a difference between the two. Would you like to see what I learned through my extensive internet research this afternoon?

Let me begin by telling you that nobody is going to say that you're wrong for using the incorrect term when it comes to discussing the thick. Whether you say forest or woods is up to you. If I had to guess, I'd estimate that only about two people on earth know what's actually what, so don't sweat it. And even when you look in the dictionary, you'll find that the two terms are somewhat ambiguous. One dictionary said that forests are thick growths of trees that go on extensively and that woods are thick growths of trees. Really? That's as good as they could do?

Here's what the U.S. National Vegetation Classification says:

Forest: 60% to 100% of land is covered by a tree canopy.
Woods: 25% to 60% of land is covered by tree canopy.

So it seems that density has something to do with it, according to them.

Here's what the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says:

Forest: Must be at least 1.24 acres. Trees must be at least 16 feet tall. Tree canopy must cover at least 10% of land.
Woods: Must be at least 1.24 acres. Trees must be at least 16 feet tall. Tree canopy must cover at least 5% to 10% of land.

Not much of a difference there. I have no idea where they got 1.24 acres from, but that's not much land at all. I can't imagine a forest existing on 1.24 acres. That's like someone's front yard. But, at least there's some sort of measurement of land.

I was discussing this topic today with a friend. She said, "Who in the world says that they're going into the forest?" I sort of agreed. Not many people use that term. Unless, of course, they're going into a real forest, like a national forest or something. But it's got to be huge, like I said above. Like something that covers half the state of Wyoming. I would say that I'm going into the woods if I were going to hike something like that. Conversely, if I were walking around the smaller woods near Main Street and the baseball field, I wouldn't say that I'm hiking in the forest. Intuitively, I think we all know the difference.
 
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