A beach covered with driftwood near Porirua, New Zealand.
Driftwood provides a perch for a Bald Eagle on Fir Island (Washington)

Driftwood is wood that has been washed onto a shore or beach of a sea or river by the action of winds, tides, waves or man. It is a form of marine debris or tidewrack.

In some waterfront areas, driftwood is a major nuisance. However, the driftwood provides shelter and food for birds, fish and other aquatic species as it floats in the ocean. Gribbles, shipworms and bacteria decompose the wood and gradually turn it into nutrients that are reintroduced to the food web. Sometimes, the partially decomposed wood washes ashore, where it also shelters birds, plants, and other species. Driftwood can become the foundation for sand dunes.

Most driftwood is the remains of trees, in whole or part, that have been washed into the ocean, due to flooding, high winds, or other natural occurrences, or as the result of logging. Other sources include the remains of man-made wooden objects, including buildings and their contents washed into the sea during storms, wooden objects discarded into the water from shore (flotsam), dropped dunnage or lost cargo from ships (jetsam), and the remains of shipwrecked wooden ships and boats. Erosion and wave action may make it difficult or impossible to determine the origin of a particular piece of driftwood.

Burning driftwood can produce polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), also known as the misnomer "dioxins", which are carcinogenic. For this reason burning driftwood is not recommended.[1] The formation of PCDDs is well documented when organic compounds are combusted in the presence of chlorine, which is present in driftwood as a result of soaking in seawater.

Driftwood can be used as part of decorative furniture or other art forms, and is a popular element in the scenery of fish tanks.

Driftwood in history

According to Norse mythology, the first humans, Ask and Embla, were formed out of two pieces of driftwood, an ash and an elm, by the god Odin and his brothers, Vili and Vé. [2]

Driftwood carried by Arctic rivers was the main, or sometimes only, source of wood for some Inuit and other Arctic populations living north of the tree line until they came into regular contact with European traders. Traditional Inuit boats such as the kayak were fashioned from driftwood frames covered in skins. Wood that is burned today in these regions mainly consists of the remains of condemned wooded structures. Driftwood is still used as kindling by some.

The "Old Man of the Lake" in Crater Lake, Oregon is a full-size tree that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for more than a century.[3] Due to the cold water of the lake, the tree has been well preserved.

Driftwood sculpture

Driftwood sculpture of a horse by artist Heather Jansch [4] at the Eden Project

Sculpture made of driftwood has been constructed on beaches or mudflats:

  • At Kullaberg, Sweden, Lars Vilke created Nimis a driftwood artwork in the year 1980. This sculpture and two others led to the declaration of Ladonia as an independent nation.
  • Sculptures were created on the Emeryville, California mudflat and marsh area of San Francisco Bay in the late 1960s.
  • A driftwood sculpture was constructed in the Chapelle St Anne d' Arles (France) by the visitors to the exhibition "Marcher dans le pas des glaneurs" organized by "A Flots perdus" (Arlésiens artists), in March 2008.
  • The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy (sometimes called the "Green Oscars") are sculpted out of driftwood.
  • Artist Deborah Butterfield is known for her sculptures of horses, initially rendered from driftwood before being cast in bronze.[5]


  1. ^ Dioxin - Frequently asked questions - Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand
  2. ^ pantheons and gods website God checker.com Retrieved 09/09/2011
  3. ^ Salinas, J., "The Old Man of the Lake," Nature Notes from Crater Lake National Park, Vol. XXVII (1996).
  4. ^ Heather Jansch - Sculptor - Driftwood - Bronze
  5. ^ Deborah Butterfield on artnet

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  • Driftwood — ist der Name mehrerer Orte in den Vereinigten Staaten: Driftwood (Arkansas) Driftwood (New York) Driftwood (Ohio) Driftwood (Oklahoma) Driftwood (Pennsylvania) Driftwood (Texas) Driftwood Acres (Florida) Driftwood Hills (Indiana) Driftwood Shores …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Driftwood — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Driftwood Título Driftwood Ficha técnica Dirección Tim Sullivan Producción Mike Richardson Guión Tim Sullivan …   Wikipedia Español

  • Driftwood — Driftwood, PA U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 103 Housing Units (2000): 88 Land area (2000): 1.791692 sq. miles (4.640462 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.092487 sq. miles (0.239539 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.884179 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Driftwood, PA — U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 103 Housing Units (2000): 88 Land area (2000): 1.791692 sq. miles (4.640462 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.092487 sq. miles (0.239539 sq. km) Total area (2000): 1.884179 sq. miles (4.880001 sq. km)… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Driftwood — Drift wood , n. 1. Wood drifted or floated by water. [1913 Webster] 2. Fig.: Whatever is drifting or floating as on water. [1913 Webster] The current of humanity, with its heavy proportion of very useless driftwood. New Your Times. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • driftwood — 1630s, from DRIFT (Cf. drift) + WOOD (Cf. wood) (n.) …   Etymology dictionary

  • driftwood — ► NOUN ▪ pieces of wood floating on the sea or washed ashore …   English terms dictionary

  • driftwood — [drift′wood΄] n. wood drifting in the water, or that has been washed ashore …   English World dictionary

  • driftwood — /drift wood /, n. 1. wood floating on a body of water or cast ashore by it. 2. such wood adapted for use in interior decoration. adj. 3. of, pertaining to, or made of driftwood: a driftwood lamp. [1605 15; DRIFT + WOOD1] * * * …   Universalium

  • Driftwood — 49° 07′ 59″ N 81° 22′ 59″ W / 49.133, 81.383 Driftwood est une …   Wikipédia en Français

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