USDA Forest Service
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53705-2398
Wood Technical Fact Sheet
Other Common Names: Palo mulato (Mexico), Hormigo (Costa Rica), Palo hormiguero (Panama), Palo santo (Colombia), Vara de maria (Venezuela), Mierenhout (Surinam), Long John (Guyana), Tangarana (Peru), Formigueira (Brazil).
Distribution: Southern Mexico, through Central America, and tropical South America. In Surinam the tree is dominant in swamps and frequent on low riverbanks. Sometimes forming almost pure stands on abandoned clearings.
The Tree: A medium-sized tree, becoming 70 ft tall and 18 in. in diameter; the bole is slightly angled or fluted and has low narrow buttresses. Hollow stems are inhabited by small vicious ants which emerge quickly and attack anyone molesting the tree.
General Characteristics: Sapwood not distinct from heartwood which is a pale gray brown to pinkish brown. Luster medium; texture medium to moderately coarse; grain straight or slightly interlocked; without distinctive odor or taste.
Weight: Basic specific gravity (ovendry weight/green volume) varies with species from 0.50 to 0.62; air-dry density 38 to 48 pcf.
Mechanical Properties: (First set of data based on the 2-in. standard, second and third sets on the 1-in. standard.)
Moisture content Bending strength Modulus of elasticity Maximum crushing strength
(%) (Psi) (1,000 psi) (Psi)
15% (34) 13,230 1,880 7,040
12% (24) 15,000 2,020 8,000
12% (41) 18,300 NA 8,100
Janka side hardness at 12% moisture content 1,040 to 1,820 lb. Forest Products Laboratory toughness for dry material varied from 121 to 186 in.-lb. (5/8-in. specimen).
Drying and Shrinkage: Drying reported to vary from fairly slow to rapid, depending on species, with medium warping and checking Kiln schedule T6-D2 is suggested for 4/4 stock. Shrinkage green to ovendry: radial 3.5%; tangential 8.6%; volumetric 12.3%.
Working Properties: Machines well in all operations, but rated only fair in turning.
Durability: Not resistant to attack by decay fungi and vulnerable to dry-wood termites.
Preservation: Tests in Venezuela show this wood to be difficult to treat with preservatives.
Uses: Furniture components, boxes and crates, interior construction, fiberboard and particleboard, joinery.
Additional Reading: (24), (34), (41)