The following description of the powers and properties of various wand woods are taken from notes made, over a long career, by Mr Garrick Ollivander, widely considered the best wandmaker in the world. As will be seen, Mr Ollivander believes that wand wood has almost human powers of perception and preferences.
Mr Ollivander introduces his notes on wand woods thus:
Every single wand is unique and will depend for its character on the particular tree and magical creature from which it derives its materials. Moreover, each wand, from the moment it finds its ideal owner, will begin to learn from and teach its human partner. Therefore, the following must be seen as general notes on each of the wood types I like to work with best, and ought not to be taken to describe any individual wand.
Only a minority of trees can produce wand quality wood (just as a minority of humans can produce magic). It takes years of experience to tell which ones have the gift, although the job is made easier if Bowtruckles are found nesting in the leaves, as they never inhabit mundane trees. The following notes on various wand woods should be regarded very much as a starting point, for this is the study of a lifetime, and I continue to learn with every wand I make and match.
A very unusual wand wood, which I have found creates tricky wands that often refuse to produce magic for any but their owner, and also withhold their best effects from all but those most gifted. This sensitivity renders them difficult to place, and I keep only a small stock for those witches or wizards of sufficient subtlety, for acacia is not suited to what is commonly known as ‘bangs-and-smells’ magic. When well-matched, an acacia wand matches any for power, though it is often underrated due to the peculiarity of its temperament.
Alder is an unyielding wood, yet I have discovered that its ideal owner is not stubborn or obstinate, but often helpful, considerate and most likeable. Whereas most wand woods seek similarity in the characters of those they will best serve, alder is unusual in that it seems to desire a nature that is, if not precisely opposite to its own, then certainly of a markedly different type. When an alder wand is happily placed, it becomes a magnificent, loyal helpmate. Of all wand types, alder is best suited to non-verbal spell work, whence comes its reputation for being suitable only for the most advanced witches and wizards.
Applewood wands are not made in great numbers. They are powerful and best suited to an owner of high aims and ideals, as this wood mixes poorly with Dark magic. It is said that the possessor of an apple wand will be well-loved and long-lived, and I have often noticed that customers of great personal charm find their perfect match in an applewood wand. An unusual ability to converse with other magical beings in their native tongues is often found among apple wand owners, who include the celebrated author of Merpeople: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Language and Customs, Dylan Marwood.
The ash wand cleaves to its one true master and ought not to be passed on or gifted from the original owner, because it will lose power and skill. This tendency is extreme if the core is of unicorn. Old superstitions regarding wands rarely bear close examination, but I find that the old rhyme regarding rowan, chestnut, ash and hazel wands (rowan gossips, chestnut drones, ash is stubborn, hazel moans) contains a small nugget of truth.