Species Specs: Purpleheart

Peltogyne spp. genus 
The Peltogyne spp. genus is a part of the Fabaceae family. There are more than 20 documented species of Peltogyne. This species most-commonly is known as purpleheart or amaranth, but also is known in other parts of the world as amendoim, violetwood, Palo morado, Morado, Tananeo, Koroboreli, Pau roxo, saka, nazareno, and others. These trees grow primarily in Central and South America (from Mexico down to southern Brazil).

USES
This wood most-commonly is used in inlays, decorative woodwork pieces, as a feature strip or as flooring, furniture, boatbuilding, billiards cues, and even in heavy construction, bridge building, and chemical vats. 

COLOR
Freshly cut heartwood is brown, then turns a deep eggplant purple upon exposure to air. With further age and exposure to light, the wood changes to a deep brown color with an underlying hint of purple. Minerals can cause uneven coloring. Sapwood is sharply demarcated from the heartwood with an off-white color.  

GRAIN
Diffuse-porous. The grain is usually straight or wavy/irregular, with a medium to fine texture and a good natural luster.

HARDNESS (JANKA)
Ranges from 1,860-3,920, averaging around 2,520

DIMENSIONAL STABILITY
Above average. The dimensional stability factor is 3.8 percent (radial) and 6.4 percent (tangential), meaning these species may shrink/swell up to 6.4 percent of its given width, depending on how it’s cut, when going from green (30 percent MC) to oven-dried.  

DIMENSIONAL CHANGE COEFFICIENT
Averages = .00212

SPECIFIC GRAVITY
Averages = .90

INSTALLATION
Can be very challenging to work with due to its hardness, and gummy resins. Fasteners hold well, and there are no known issues with nailing purpleheart. Glues adhere nicely.

SANDING
Moderately difficult and challenging to sand, and requires extra caution with grit progression. Do not skip grits when sanding this wood. The final pass normally is done with a higher grit abrasive than with other species. This wood finishes very nicely; however, the oils in this species can react with some finishes. Use of spirits or thinners can remove or lighten the purple color. 

SUSTAINABILITY
This species is not listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. 

INTERESTING NOTES 

  • The tree is deciduous, growing to 98 feet in height.
  • Purpleheart is one of the hardiest woods in the world. It is nearly unbreakable. It is water resistant, and blocks rot and decay. This species also is resistant to insects.
  • Purpleheart is one of the most stable and sustainable wood species.
  • In modern day pagan religions, purpleheart wood harbors important spiritual qualities. Some believe it enhances creative energy, knowledge, and assists in healing. It also may eliminate negative energies and tension in the home.
  • It is used in medicine, as a substitute for turpentine, and to produce a red dye for dying textile fabrics.

For additional resources, check out the NWFA’s Wood Species Technical Publication at nwfa.org

Sources: 

  • WOOD!; Copyright © 2016, Eric Meier
  • Wood Identification and Use; Copyright © 2006, Terry Porter
  • Wood Handbook (Wood as an Engineering Material), USDA Forest Products Laboratory

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