The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of wood anatomy and density on the mechanics of fracture when wood is split in the radial-longitudinal (RL) and tangential-longitudinal (TL) fracture systems. The specific fracture energies (Gf, J m-2) of the trunk wood of six tree species were studied in the green state using double-edge notched tensile tests. The fracture surfaces were examined in both systems using Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM). Wood density and ray characteristics were also measured. The results showed that Gf in RL was greater than TL for five of the six species. In particular, the greatest degree of anisotropy was observed in Quercus robur L., and the lowest in Larix decidua Mill. ESEM micrographs of fractured specimens suggested reasons for the anisotropy and differences across tree species. In the RL system, fractures broke across rays, the walls of which unwound like tracheids in longitudinal-tangential (LT) and longitudinal-radial (LR) failure, producing a rough fracture surface which would absorb energy, whereas in the TL system, fractures often ran alongside rays.