What are some of the "hot" items in plantation products? Plantations are increasing all around the globe.

In the U.S., many southern states are converting agricultural land to Southern yellow pine or yellow poplar. The wood is being used for anything from pulp and plywood production to moldings and structural timber. New technology (face printing and treatment systems) has the potential to convert either species into visual substitutes for high-end tropical and temperate woods.

Pine has always been a good plantation species. Tadea, elliotius, radiata and many other species are being planted on every continent. You can find similar plantations in South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand as well as the U.S., Malaysia, and France. Plantations are often equally important in the "first world" as in the Third.

Teak is a common plantation species in Central and South America, sometimes being harvested in as little as seven years for decking squares. New plantations in Africa are also under development, with some seeking FSC certification. Indonesia and Vietnam have active teak industries. Because of its major placement in the market, teak has a tremendous potential to help alleviate poverty in some regions.

China's forest plantation area increased rapidly as a result of recent forestry reform. "Hot" species include pines, eucalyptus, poplar, and acacia. China planted 6.3 million hectares of forest in 2009, an 18 percent increase from 2008. That's a lot of trees. The increase was attributed in part to China's changes in their forestry property rights. Now farmers are encouraged to plant trees for long-term income potential for their families as they retain the rights to the trees planted on their lands.

Acacia is a very trendy flooring species now. Sometimes marketed as "Asian walnut," various species of this wood has been planted throughout Asia.

As they did long ago with rubberwood, Malaysia is doing a huge drive to find alternative uses for palm oil trees after they've reached the end of their oil producing years. They are exploring flooring production, as well as furniture and a range of other products.

Old-growth mahogany production is restricted throughout South America, but plantation production out of Fiji, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam continues to expand.

The world is very fortunate. We have nearly endless options for plantations from teak to mahogany, and eucalyptus to any number of pines. We can get a return on some within as few as seven years and others will give us oils and food for decades before becoming beautiful floors and furniture. Plantations are a wonderful resource for the world. We just want to balance the use of our dirt-some is for agriculture, some for houses, some for natural forests and some for plantations. It's a fine line to walk.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")