AskDefine | Define driftwood

Dictionary Definition

driftwood n : wood that is floating or that has been washed ashore

User Contributed Dictionary



drift + wood


  1. Floating piece of wood that drifts with the current
  2. Such a piece of wood that has been cast ashore


floating piece of wood
wood that has been cast ashore

See also

Extensive Definition

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.
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.
Driftwood can be formed from:
  • a tree or tree branch washed into the ocean (or another large body of water), usually because of strong winds, as in a storm, or due to flooding.
  • buildings and their contents washed into the sea by floods, storms and tsunamis.
  • wooden objects discarded into the water from shore.
  • remains of wrecked wooden ships and boats.
  • jettisoned dunnage or lost cargo.

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, Ve and Vili.
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.
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. Due to the cold water of the lake, the tree has been well preserved. Many people use driftwood as parts of decorative furniture or other art forms, and it is a popular element in the scenery of fish tanks.

Driftwood sculpture

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.


Strait of Juan de Fuca "A Flots perdus" March 2008 (Arles) (France) : Untitled 1963 mixed media work on canvas by Jane Frank


driftwood in German: Treibholz
driftwood in French: Bois flotté
driftwood in Icelandic: Rekaviður
driftwood in Japanese: 流木
driftwood in Simple English: Driftwood
driftwood in Swedish: Drivved
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1