Common Name(s): Tatabu, sucupira, chontaquiro
Scientific Name: Diplotropis purpurea
Distribution: South America
Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall,
2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 57.7 lbs/ft3 (925 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .78, .93
Janka Hardness: 2,140 lbf (9,520 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 22,060 lbf/in2 (152.2 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 2,874,000 lbf/in2 (19.82 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 12,550 lbf/in2 (86.5 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 4.8%, Tangential: 7.1%,
Volumetric: 11.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.5
Color/Appearance: Heartwood ranges from medium brown to darker reddish brown, sometimes alternatively with a grayish hue. The paler sapwood is usually well demarcated from the heartwood. Contrasting parenchyma bands can give the grain a striped appearance similar to partidgewood (Andira inermis)—though usually less pronounced.
Grain/Texture: Grain variable, from straight to wavy and/or interlocked. Medium to coarse texture and moderate natural luster.
Rot Resistance: Conflicting ratings vary from moderately durable (for real-world tests done in GuyanaFanshawe, D. B. (1948). Forest Products of British Guiana: Part 1. Principal Timbers. British Guiana Forestry Department. and SurinamePfeiffer, J. P. (1926). De houtsoorten van Suriname (Vol. 1). Druk de Bussy.) to very durable (for US-based lab testingKoehler, A., & Muschler, A. F. (1954). Properties and uses of tropical woods. Part IV. Trop. Woods, 99, 1-187. on decay resistance). Good insect resistance, though susceptible to marine borers.
Workability: Generally difficult to work due to its high density and irregular grain. The wood can also warp and distort during drying if care is not taken to dry it slowly, though the wood is fairly stable once dry.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, tatabu has been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Sometimes imported as flooring planks or as surfaced lumber. Expect prices to be moderate for an imported hardwood.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.
Common Uses: Flooring, furniture, turned objects, and veneer, as well as heavy exterior construction applications not requiring much machining, such as railroad ties, bridges, and beams.
Comments: Tatabu is sometimes sold interchangeably with Bowdichia species under the trade name sucupira—or more specifically, sucupira preta, which is simply Portuguese for black sucupira.
Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood.
Porosity: diffuse porous
Arrangement: solitary and radial multiples
Vessels: large to very large, few to very few; brown deposits occasionally present
Parenchyma: vasicentric, lozenge, and confluent
Rays: narrow width; normal spacing
Lookalikes/Substitutes: Brownheart (Vouacapoua americana) and partridgewood (Andira inermis) are two other South American hardwoods with similar density and appearance. Separating them from tatabu can be difficult, but in general, these woods will have much more widespread confluent parenchyma throughout most of the pores, while tatabu will, on average, have a more conservative amount of confluent parenchyma.
Notes: Sucupira (Bowdichia spp.) is a closely related species with nearly identical properties. Given the available macroscopic features, there aren’t enough consistently unique elements to reliably distinguish between the species of Diplotropis and Bowdichia.
The heartwood of some Diplotropis species can be slightly fluorescent under a blacklight. In one study, twenty four heartwood samples were tested, nine of which were weakly fluorescent.Miller, R. B. (2007). Fluorescent woods of the world. A Guide to More Useful Woods of the World. Forest Products Society, Madison, 271-305.
Depending on the source and circumscription used, Diplotropis comprises up to twelve species. However, recent genetic tests have shown the need for a narrower genus circumscription with a species count closer to eight.Cardoso, D., de Lima, H. C., Rodrigues, R. S., de Queiroz, L. P., Pennington, R. T., & Lavin, M. (2012). The Bowdichia clade of Genistoid legumes: Phylogenetic analysis of combined molecular and … Continue reading
With the exception of D. purpurea represented on this page, nearly all other Diplotropis species are commercially very obscure and are almost never seen in lumber form. However, one exception found primarily in Brazil and Peru is D. martiusii, sometimes sold as chontaquiro, or using the somewhat misleading halo name southern chestnut (it’s not related to true chestnut). The appearance and physical properties of this wood are nearly identical to D. purpurea.
Lastly, just outside Diplotropis’ circumscription, there are two very closely related genera which can yield commercial lumber, Bowdichia and Leptolobium.
|↑1||Fanshawe, D. B. (1948). Forest Products of British Guiana: Part 1. Principal Timbers. British Guiana Forestry Department.|
|↑2||Pfeiffer, J. P. (1926). De houtsoorten van Suriname (Vol. 1). Druk de Bussy.|
|↑3||Koehler, A., & Muschler, A. F. (1954). Properties and uses of tropical woods. Part IV. Trop. Woods, 99, 1-187.|
|↑4||Miller, R. B. (2007). Fluorescent woods of the world. A Guide to More Useful Woods of the World. Forest Products Society, Madison, 271-305.|
|↑5||Cardoso, D., de Lima, H. C., Rodrigues, R. S., de Queiroz, L. P., Pennington, R. T., & Lavin, M. (2012). The Bowdichia clade of Genistoid legumes: Phylogenetic analysis of combined molecular and morphological data and a recircumscription of Diplotropis. Taxon, 61(5), 1074-1081.|