Imbuia (Ocotea porosa)

Imbuia (Ocotea porosa)

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Common Name(s): Imbuia, Imbuya, Embuya, and variant spellings; Brazilian Walnut

Scientific Name: Ocotea porosa (syn. Phoebe porosa)

Distribution: Southern Brazil

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 41 lbs/ft3 (660 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .53, .66

Janka Hardness: 970 lbf (4,300 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 12,290 lbf/in2 (84.8 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,394,000 lbf/in2 (9.61 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,780 lbf/in2 (46.8 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.0%, Tangential: 6.4%, Volumetric: 9.5%, T/R Ratio: 2.1

Color/Appearance: Heartwood color can vary substantially; typically medium to dark brown, sometimes with a reddish, golden, or olive-colored cast. Light grayish yellow sapwood is usually differentiated from the heartwood. Burls and wildly figured boards are commonly seen.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, though many boards can exhibit wild or burl-like patterning. Medium to fine uniform texture with good natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; solitary and radial multiples; large pores in no specific arrangement, moderately numerous; tyloses common; parenchyma vasicentric; narrow rays, spacing normal.

Rot Resistance: Rated as durable; also moderately resistant to insect attacks. Good weathering characteristics.

Workability: Produces good results with both hand and machine tools. However, pieces with wild or irregular grain may present challenges in surfacing and other machining operations. Turns, glues, and finishes well.

Odor: Imbuia has a characteristic spicy scent when being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Imbuia has been reported to cause nose, throat, and skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Usually available as lumber in good sizes, as well as turning or instrument blanks. Plain, unfigured lumber should be moderately priced for an imported hardwood, though figured pieces may be considerably more expensive.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, but is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Common Uses: Furniture, cabinetry, flooring, veneer, boatbuilding, gunstocks, and turned objects.

Comments: Sometimes called “Brazilian Walnut,” Imbuia bears little botanical relation to true walnuts in the Juglans genus. However, even though Imbuia isn’t a true walnut, it still possesses deep, rich colors and interesting grain patterns that rival the classic cabinet hardwood.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.

Imbuia (Ocotea porosa)

Imbuia (sanded)

Imbuia (sealed)

Imbuia (sealed)

Imbuia (endgrain)

Imbuia (endgrain)

Imbuia (endgrain 10x)

Imbuia (endgrain 10x)

Imbuia (turned)

Imbuia (turned)

  • margie thompson

    I have many pieces of imbuia furniture in my home. I love this wood and have had it all sanded down to it’s original. I am currently giving it plenty of oil (woodoc) and would like to know if I’m doing the right thing to preserve and feed the pieces as best I can

  • Margie,
    This is a common misconception among some: that a wood is “thirsty” and somehow needs to be “fed” from time to time.
    Wood reaches an equilibrium with the surrounding air in terms of the level of moisture that’s contained in the wood, and it doesn’t subsequently over dry or “dry out” at any point.
    If the actual finish on the wood (not the wood itself) is scratched or deteriorated, it might be necessary to reapply or refinish the wood, but that isn’t needed all that often.

  • Margit Funk

    If you are looking for reclaimed imbuia in the European market, feel free to contact us: http://www.oldcastilian.com

  • Bill

    Thinking about making a native American flute with this wood (imbuia) but have concerns
    about health issues. Any input ?

    • Luis Gustavo Weigert

      I’ve already seen some bird call whistles made of Imbuia wood in Brazil. By the way, luthiers in Brazil used to make flutes with this wood, but now is illegal to cut this wood.