Argentine Lignum Vitae (Bulnesia sarmientoi)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (Bulnesia sarmientoi)

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Common Name(s): Verawood, Argentine Lignum Vitae

Scientific Name: Bulnesia arborea, Bulnesia sarmientoi

Distribution: Central America and northern South America

Tree Size: 40-50 ft (12-15 m) tall, 1-2 ft (.3-.6 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 74 lbs/ft3 (1,190 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 1.01, 1.19

Janka Hardness: 3,710 lbf (16,520 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 25,730 lbf/in2 (177.4 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 2,272,000 lbf/in2 (15.67 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 10,830 lbf/in2 (74.7 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: ~6%, Tangential: ~8%, Volumetric: ~13%

Color/Appearance: Heartwood color can range from a pale yellowish olive, to a deeper forest green or dark brown to almost black. The color tends to darken with age, especially upon exposure to light (see light-change color photo below). Pale yellow sapwood is clearly demarcated from heartwood. Quartersawn grain has a unique feathered pattern when viewed up close.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight to spiraled or slightly interlocked. Fine even texture with very high natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small to medium pores in wavy radial rows, moderately numerous to numerous; dark-colored heartwood deposits present; parenchyma vasicentric, and confluent; narrow rays, fairly close spacing.

Rot Resistance: Verawood is reported to be very durable for outdoor use and is said to last almost indefinitely in direct ground contact; Verawood is  also resistant to insect attack.

Workability: Verawood has a tendency to skip over-top jointer cutters on account of its extremely high density, and very light passes are recommended. Verawood will also dull cutters, and overall it’s considered quite difficult to work. Also, due to its high oil content and hardness, it is very difficult to get a strong and reliable glue joint. However, Verawood is an exceptional wood for turning on the lathe, and finishes well.

Odor: Verawood has a distinct, perfume-like fragrance that lingers even after it has been machined.

Allergies/Toxicity: Verawood sawdust has been reported to cause sneezing, and the closely related Lignum Vitae has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Should be priced in the mid to upper range of imported exotic woods. Turning blanks and other small pieces are most commonly available, comparing similarly with other tropical hardwoods such as Cocobolo or Bocote. Larger pieces of lumber are less common but are also available.

Sustainability: This wood species is in CITES Appendix II, and is on the IUCN Red List as conservation dependent. Cessation of any current conservation programs would likely result in a vulnerable or endangered status.

Common Uses: Tool handles, mallet heads, bearings, bushings, boatbuilding, pulley wheels, heavy construction (in areas where the tree grows locally), and turned objects.

Comments: Verawood has very similar appearances and working characteristics to Lignum Vitae, and is sometimes referred to as Argentine Lignum Vitae. Technically Verawood is Bulnesia arborea, and Argentine Lignum Vitae is Bulnesia sarmientoi; though the two woods are so close in appearance and working characteristics that they have been combined on one page for simplicity’s sake. All the scans listed here are from Bulnesia sarmientoi. Though Verawood is in a different Genus than Lignum Vitae, (Bulnesia and Guaiacum, respectively) both genera are biologically classified in the same Family: Zygophyllaceae. Both woods are extremely hard, heavy, oily, and have a feathered grain pattern with a distinct brownish olive color.

Since trade of genuine Lignum Vitae is restricted, (and is included in the CITES Appendix II), Verawood is a popular substitute: yet even this species (Bulnesia sarmientoi) has been included in CITES Appendix III, though it is not as restrictive as Appendix II.

Related Species:

Zygophyllaceae family:

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures: You can see from the picture(s) in the lower right that the wood is capable of turning a deep, almost forest green. Since there was a sticker above the area with the much lighter yellowish-olive color, it would stand to reason that this dark green color change came about through exposure to light.

A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing turned photo of this wood species. You can see more of his work at Steve’s Wooden Skittle Pins and Balls.

Argentine Lignum Vitae (sanded)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (sanded)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (sealed)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (sealed)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (endgrain)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (endgrain)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (endgrain 10x)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (endgrain 10x)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (quartersawn)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (quartersawn)

Verawood (color changed)

Verawood (color change)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (turned)

Argentine Lignum Vitae (turned)

Verawood (color change)

Verawood (color change)