Main conclusionRG-I and AGP, but not XG, are associated to the building of the peculiar mechanical properties of tension wood. Hardwood trees produce tension wood (TW) with specific mechanical properties to cope with environmental cues. Poplar TW fibers have an additional cell wall layer, the G-layer responsible for TW mechanical properties. We investigated, in two poplar hybrid species, the molecules potentially involved in the building of TW mechanical properties. First, we evaluated the distribution of the different classes of non-cellulosic polysaccharides during xylem fiber differentiation, using immunolocalization. In parallel, G-layers were isolated and their polysaccharide composition determined. These complementary approaches provided information on the occurrence of non-cellulosic polysaccharides during G-fiber differentiation. We found no evidence of the presence of xyloglucan (XG) in poplar G-layers, whereas arabinogalactan proteins (AGP) and rhamnogalacturonan type I pectins (RG-I) were abundant, with an apparent progressive loss of RG-I side chains during G-layer maturation. Similarly, the intensity of immunolabeling signals specific for glucomannans and glucuronoxylans varies during G-layer maturation. RG-I and AGP are best candidate matrix components to be responsible for TW mechanical properties.