Background: I was cooking eggs (very difficult) with a plastic spatula which was not very good, so when I set it on the border of the pan it began melting. In order to keep cooking, I reached for a wooden spoon which can touch the pan without melting.
This led me to wonder about the behaviors of the materials. For example, if I had left the plastic spatula it would have melted, but if I had turned up the temperature enough it would have actually ignited and caught a flame. If I had done the same with the wooden spoon, it wouldn't melt as I turned up the temperature but it would ignite eventually.
So why is it that certain materials (plastic in this case) will go through the process of melting, then igniting, but wood just seems to skip the melting and go straight into ignition?
My only guess is that somehow wood has a melting point higher than its ignition point, but I am not even sure if that makes physical sense. A Google search led me to a strange-looking forum with disappointing answers. My understanding of thermodynamics is only as far as the math goes, but I am conceptually blind in this area. Maybe someone can shed some more light.