You love exotic wood because it’s, well, exotic. It’s more colorful and vibrant than traditional domestic wood, and it’s fun to brag about when entertaining guests. But how much do you really know about the places from which your hardwood floors came? If you answered, “Not much”, don’t fear. Here are four of the top exotic woods on the market today and a little information about their areas of origin.
Cumaru, or Dipteryx odorata
Also known as Brazilian Teak, Cumaru wood has a beautiful reddish-brown color and an impressive 3540 Janka rating, making it one of the hardest, densest woods available.
Cumaru is actually a species of flowering tree native to the Orinoco region of northern South America. A member of the pea family, Cumaru produces Tonka Beans, seeds similar in smell and flavor to vanilla, almonds, cloves and cinnamon. These seeds have been used in cooking, perfumes, and tobacco, but are banned in the US and other countries because they contain the anticoagulant coumarin, which is lethal in large doses.
Amendoim, or Pterogyne nitens
Sometimes called Brazillian Oak, Amendoim is a lustrous, reddish- to yellow-brown wood that takes well to sanding. The wood undergoes a mild color change over time but usually keeps its original shine.
Amendoim is most often found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay and is a part of the Fabaceae family. Yes, it’s a legume. While the species is threatened with habitat loss and is listed as “Near Threatened”, sustainable harvesting practices allow for commercial use with little risk of increasing the species’ fragility.
Tigerwood, or Astronium fraxinifolium
In Brazilian Portuguese, Tigerwood is called gonçalo-alves. This distinctive looking wood has vibrant reddish-brown tones, black striping and a wavy, irregular grain pattern. Tigerwood has a 1850 Janka hardness rating, meaning it is both eye-catching and long-lasting.
Tigerwood is native to the Amazon Rainforest and is especially abundant in eastern Brazil. Sustainable Tigerwood harvesting is a big industry and a large factor in local economies.
Brazillian Cherry, or Hymenaea courbaril
Sometimes referred to as Jatoba, Brazillian Cherry is the 800 lb. gorilla of hardwood flooring. It weighs a whopping 56 lbs. per cubic foot and has a Janka hardness rating of 2350. Its color ranges from salmon to deep red to orange, and the wood features attractive black accent stripes and a natural luster.
Brazillian Cherry is not, in fact, a cherry tree at all. Common to the Caribbean and Central/South America, the tree is often called Stinktoe due to the unpleasant odor of the pulp inside its seed pods. Amber fossils from million-year-old Hymenaea trees have also helped scientists piece together an understanding of prehistoric Earth, its vegetation and its insects. (Think Jurassic Park)
Now that you know a bit more about your brand new exotic wood floors, invite over some friends, pour a few cocktails and wow everybody with your extensive knowledge. You might want to leave out the Stinktoe part, though.