Purpleheart Wood - Characteristics, Uses and Types
trees are part of the Peltogyne, a genus consisting of currently23 known species of flowering medium to very large plants in the Fabaceae family. Originating from the territories of Central and
South America, these tropical rainforest trees can most commonly be found
in the rainforests of Brazil, Suriname and Guyana (and also in countries
such as Panama, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Mexican state of Guerrero) where
they can grow to the impressive size ofup to 30 to 50 meters (100–170 ft) with trunk diameter of up to 1.5 meters (5 ft). Purpleheart
trees are famous for having small flowers with five petals
, and a pod-shaped fruit that contains a single seed.
Majority of all Purpleheart trees currently in existence are located in the
One of the defining characteristics of Purpleheart wood is the strength, density, and durability of its lumber structure.
Purpleheart is so strong, it can easily be considered as one of the strongest and densest trees available on the
market. However, such hardiness and natural oils that are
hidden inside its structure can take a toll on processing equipment,
dulling the saw edges and clogging up cutting and drilling tools with its
resin. But even with that hassle calculated in, the amazing visual appeal
and strength of Purplewood make it
one of the most exotic trees originating from the Central and South
The most popular type of Peltogyne genus is Peltogyne purpurea, commonly known as purpleheart
or nazareno, famous for its bright purple heartwood with dark stripes. As of today,
Purpleheart trees are not commercially cultivated, and its
harvest is regulated by law in Panama and Costa Rica to prevent
overexploitation. As of 2017, Purpleheart is not listed on IUCN Red List of
What is Purpleheart Wood
Purpleheart is an incredibly strong and durable type of wood, originating
from the Peltogyne genus of 23 species of large trees that can be found
growing natively on the territory between Mexico and Brazil. It is best
known for its amazing grain pattern and a unique color that can rarely be
found in other wood types.
Since the qualities of this lumber have caused increased levels of lumber
several countries have imposed strong laws for cutting and processing
this incredibly useful type of lumber that is so strong that it can be
easily used for strenuous industrial construction work such as
scaffolding, paneling, and flooring in areas that are regularly placed
under a lot of physical stress (such as floors of heavy cargo trucks)
The internal structure of purpleheart wood consists of
greyish-purple hardwood that slowly over time changes its color to
violet purple and eventually to deep purple
This change is closely connected with the presence of ultraviolet rays which change the top layer of
the wood. This color change can be reduced by coating purpleheart wood with
an anti-UV coating or by sanding. Natural luster is high, with straight grain that looks
visually great but it can cause some issues during cutting and drilling.
Some of the largest issues during drilling and cutting of purpleheart can
be identified with plane cutting and temperature of the tools during
processing. During plane cutting, wood has a
high chance of exhibiting a tearout effect that will ruin the cut
. Even more troubling, since the purpleheart is very strong and dense, it
will cause heating up of the cutting tools, which will in turn cause
melting of the internal resin that will contaminate tools and cause various
types of issues such as clogging.
Regular cleaning of tools is needed for prolonged cutting of
However, if woodworking issues can be overcome, the end result is regarded
to be spectacular. Purpleheart lumber is prized all around the world for
its visual appeal, strength, and durability, which makes
it a perfect choice for use in
paneling, flooring, durable furniture (tables or tabletops)
or even art pieces and the wide variety of specialty wood items. In addition to the home
or common outdoor uses, purpleheart is highly praised for industrial use
where it can easily be found as
structural elements for columns, arches, boats, various heavy
constructions or industrial flooring
This exotic wood originates from central and South America, and can be most
easily found in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Columbia,
French Guiana, Guyana, Mexico, and Venezuela, where it is known under more
than 50 types of local names, including
Purpleheart, Amaranth, Amarante, Guarabu, Koroboreli, Morado, Palo
Morado, Pau Roxo, Purperhart, Tananeo, Violetwood, Sacka, Sackaballi,
Sacka, Violet wood, Violetwood, and Dabam
Purpleheart thrives in tropical regions and is most commonly found in
Amazon rainforest and tropical regions of Central America where a single
type of this wood (Peltogyne mexicana) can be
found in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Tree Size: 100-170 ft (30-50 m) tall
Trunk Diameter - 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m)
Janka Hardness - 2,520 lbf (11,190 N)
Average Dried Weight - 56 lbs/ft3 (905 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC) - .76, .90
Modulus of Rupture - 22,000 lbf/in2 (151.7 MPa)
Elastic Modulus - 2,937,000 lbf/in2 (20.26 GPa)
Crushing Strength - 12,140 lbf/in2 (83.7 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial - 3.8%, Tangential: 6.4%, Volumetric: 10.6%, T/R Ratio:
Odor - Changes due to species. Most are odorless, while some can exhibit a
mild pungent scent.
Workability - Mid to hard, with unique problems that arise with the
presence of heat in cutting tools. That heat releases strong gummy resin
that can easily clog up cutting tools if left unchecked. Grain orientation
can also cause tearouts during cutting. Since the purpleheart heartwood is
dense and strong, it can easily dull cutting edges. Nailing requires
pre-drilling. It can be glued well, and polishing is also easy.
Texture - Medium and regular texture with a good level of natural luster.
Grain - Straight and nice looking grain, rarely irregular or with waves.
Sustainability - Very common in tropical regions of Brazil, South, and
Central America, with some countries forbidding commercial exploiting. Not
listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Required growth density - No particular growth requirements.
Drying - It can dry rapidly when assisted, but air drying is slow and can
introduce some cases of surface checking, case hardening, and small
Durability - Highly durable, and resistant to physical damage, but with
sapwood that is susceptible to insect attacks. This type of wood is not
best suited for use in water. Lumber usually does not easily accepts
Maintenance - Low
The incredible strength, durability and visual appeal of purpleheart has
made it one of the most exotic and highly praised wood types on the
current commercial lumber market. Even though it remains expensive, and
with rising costs introduced due to the heightened government oversight of
commercial exploitation, purpleheart remains in great demand.
Here are the most common use case scenarios of purpleheart wood:
Heavy outdoor construction work
Indoor and outdoor decoration
Various specialty wood items
Peltogyne genus consists of 24 accepted species of flowering plants:
Peltogyne altissima Ducke
Peltogyne angustiflora Ducke
Peltogyne campestris Ducke
Peltogyne catingae Ducke
Peltogyne confertiflora (Hayne) Benth.
Peltogyne discolor Vogel
Peltogyne excelsa Ducke
Peltogyne floribunda (Kunth) Pittier
Peltogyne gracilipes Ducke
Peltogyne heterophylla M.F.Silva
Peltogyne lecointei Ducke
Peltogyne maranhensis Ducke
Peltogyne mattosiana Rizzini
Peltogyne mexicana Martinez
Peltogyne paniculata Benth.
Peltogyne paradoxa Ducke
Peltogyne parvifolia Benth.
Peltogyne pauciflora Benth.
Peltogyne prancei M.F.Silva
Peltogyne purpurea Pittier
Peltogyne recifensis Ducke
Peltogyne subsessilis W.A.Rodrigues
Peltogyne venosa (M.Vahl) Benth.sfd