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What Is Brazilian Walnut?

By Donna Tinus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Brazilian walnut is a tree known scientifically as ocotea porosa, in the Lauraceae family, genus Phoebe. Other names for it include lapacho bethabara, cortez, and guayacan. It grows in the subtropical rain forests in southern Brazil, where it is called ipe. Sometimes used for high-end furniture or hard-wood flooring, this type of wood offers a deep, lustrous olive brown or red-brown to a blackish color often with light or dark stripes. Despite the name, Brazillian walnut does not produce any nuts and is not related to the walnut family.

Parana, Santa Catarina, and, to a lesser extent, Rio Grande do Sul and Sao Paulo are home to the Brazilian walnut tree. These trees also grow in Argentina and Paraguay. The trees generally grow to a height of 131 feet (40 meters) with a trunk diameter of about 6 feet (1.8 meters). Also called trumpet tree, due to the trumpet shape of its flowers, this tree doesn't bear nuts, but it does grow long ponds. Due to the high quality and hardness of the wood, Brazil exports a good deal of the wood to other countries, and relies heavily on this sought-after tree for commerce.

As one of the hardest woods, it boasts a Janka rating of 3680, which is extremely high on the hard-wood scale. It is very fire resistant, offering the same fire-resistant quality as steel. Brazilian walnut also is resistant to rot, mildew, and insects. Used as a hard-wood flooring, it will resist scratches from foot traffic and pets. It usually starts out having variations in color, but after time, all the pieces should be a more uniform medium-brown color.

If used outdoors, it requires no additional treatments like preservatives or varnish. The strength and resistant qualities make it a desirable wood for outside projects such as decks, foot bridges, and boat docks. After exposure to sun and the elements, it could turn a gray color. Once-a-year pressure washing will restore it to its natural beauty.

Buyers should be aware that sometimes wood of lesser quality may be categorized as "ipe wood." Because Brazilian walnut comes from rain forests, a conscientious buyer will select a brand that sells wood from sustainably grown trees that have been dried well prior to sales. Before using it for any outdoor projects, the wood should also be left outside for a while to allow it to become acclimated to the conditions in the area in which it will be used.

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