On the Plane Shift: Innistrad material, it mentions that

Weapons cut from living wood are particularly effective against vampires, though any weapon can harm or kill them.

But I can't find any source about what living wood is. My guess is that it's some special kind of wood from some tree, but that's just a guess.

So, what is living wood and does it has any specific properties?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you ask about 5e specifically, or any information from previous editions would be fine? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Aug 23 at 9:50

Information about Innistrad is more easily found in resources about Magic: the Gathering, since the world originated in that game. The article “A Planeswalker's Guide to Innistrad: Stensia and Vampires" says this about living wood and vampires:

In small villages, the cottages are usually arranged around a small grove of hawthorn trees for centralized access to living wood. […]

All vampires inherit a set of weaknesses linked to the ritual that created their race. First, although they can be harmed or killed by any weapon, weapons of living wood have special efficacy—this is the so-called Dryad's Legacy (dead wood is inert, no more effective than stone or steel). […]

Vampires enjoy a lively commerce in blood, although the commodity is only good for a few days before it provides no nourishment—about the same length of time as wood stays alive once cut from its plant. […]

From this, we can surmise that living wood is wood that's less than a few days cut from its living source, or wood that's part of a living-wood creature, like a dryad or a treant.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The hawthorn mythology here is consistent with real-world myths. It was widely believed that bringing living hawthorn into a house was unlucky, but the dead wood was widely used for carving, making tool handles, etc. The smell of hawthorn flowers was described as similar to corpses which had died from plague, (and both contain the same chemicals causing the smell), but hawthorn leaves and berries were eaten, and have demonstrable medicinal properties. The young leaves were nicknamed "bread and cheese" which is a good description - and a welcome diet supplement at the end of winter! \$\endgroup\$ – alephzero Oct 5 '17 at 1:24

This is not a term unique to Dungeons and Dragons. Living wood is wood cut from a living tree. Compare this with fashioning a weapon out of a downed, rotting tree trunk or some fence posts you found.

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    \$\begingroup\$ At some point that fence post was a living tree though. So where's the distinction? \$\endgroup\$ – Pureferret Oct 5 '17 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pureferret whether the wood is still "green" or whether it's been dried out (or rotted). IOW, age. \$\endgroup\$ – RonJohn Oct 5 '17 at 16:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RonJohn it was supposed ot be slightly rhetorical. Your answer fits the other answers better than this one. \$\endgroup\$ – Pureferret Oct 5 '17 at 16:42

Living Wood is found in the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook

It is wood that has regeneration, even after it is processed into objects.

The entry reads as follows:

Living Wood: This specially bred wood, found in elven forest strongholds, regrows quickly if damaged. It repairs 1 point of damage every round. Treat living wood as wood for the purposes of blocking detect spells and the like. HP: 10 per inch of thickness; Break DC: 14 + 1 per inch of thickness.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not only in elven forests - if you take almost a piece of "dead" willow (of any size, even a piece of large tree-trunk, though it works more reliably if some of the bark is still attached to it) and leave it standing in a bucket of water for a few weeks, it will sprout roots and start to grow again. \$\endgroup\$ – alephzero Oct 5 '17 at 1:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wrong lore. This isn't that living wood as Stronghold builder's guidebook is D&D 3e. The lore of Innistrad is from Magic the Gathering and the Planeshift was written by the Magic the Gathering team at WotC. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Aug 22 at 21:18

From the Eberron Campaign Setting book:

Another of the unusual woods of Aerenal, livewood is a green-colored hardwood with a highly magical nature. When livewood trees are felled, they do not die, though they stop all growth. Livewood can be worked like normal hardwood, while it remains completely alive. In most respects, livewood is just like normal wood.

A few spells affect livewood in different ways from normal wood, however. Plant growth causes worked livewood to sprout small branches and leaves, though diminish plants has no effect. Speak with plants allows a character to communicate with a livewood object, though such an object has no more awareness of its surroundings than most normal plants. Blight deals damage to a livewood object as if the object were a plant creature (1d6 points of damage per level; the wood’s hardness does not apply). A character can use tree stride to move from one livewood object to another, or from a livewood tree to a livewood object (and vice versa), as long as the livewood object is large enough. Animate plants can animate a livewood object.

Dryads occasionally make their homes in livewood trees instead of oak trees. Such a dryad looks no more kindly upon the felling of her tree than other dryads do, but the felling of her livewood tree does not kill her—nor does it end her dependence on the tree. As a result, dryads can be found within livewood objects, including buildings, furniture, and ships.

Price: Livewood has hardness 6 and 10 hit points per inch of thickness. The cost of a livewood item is half again as much (+50%) as a normal wooden item. Items without wooden parts, including armor and bladed weapons, can not be made from livewood.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Livewood is clearly an example of living wood, but by elementary logic we know that that does not show that all living wood is livewood. And the question is what is living wood, not what is livewood, so this is incomplete at best. It would also be necessary to demonstrate how Eberron-exclusive material is relevant to a question about Innistrad. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 22 at 20:01
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