The TreePurpleheart of Guyana is a semi-deciduous tree with small plank-type buttresses about 1.0m high in P. pubescens, and 1.8m to 3.6m high and sometimes spread out over a 4.5m diameter in P. venosa var densiflora. The trees reach a height of 50.0m with straight, cylindrical boles 18.0m to 27.0m high above the buttresses and with considerable taper. The diameter is generally 1.0m or slightly more.
The TimberThe sapwood is creamy white to light pinkish cinnamon streaked with light brown, from 50mm to 100mm wide, and sharply demarcated from the heartwood which is most often recognised for its unusual colouring. It is greyish-purple when freshly cut. later becoming a violet purple to deep purple through an oxidation process. In due time. the purplish colour is lost and the wood turns an attractive dark brown ; this is only superficial, and by removing only a thin layer the original colouring is restored until oxidation occurs again. The uniform texture of purpleheart varies from fine to medium. The grain is usually straight and seldom interlocked, but is sufficiently irregular, along with variation in lustre and colour to give the wood a pleasing stripe figure on quarter-sawn surfaces. The weight of purpleheart is variable, but averages 880 kg/m3 when dried.
DryingModerately difficult to dry in the open air and in the kiln. It air dries slowly with light to moderate degrade, usually in the form of slight end and surface checking and slight casehardening. Thin timber kiln dries readily, but thick material requires special care to overcome the difficulty of removing moisture from the centre of the heavy pieces.
StrengthPurpleheart is intermediate between American white oak and greenheart in strength properties, but is outstanding in its ability to withstand suddenly applied loads and difficult strains.
Working QualitiesMedium to difficult - Moderately difficult to work; the wood resists cutting and dulls cutting edges. It also exudes a gummy resin when heated by dull tools; the resin clings to cutter teeth and other tool parts and complicates machining operations. Material is best run slowly through machines equipped with high speed steel knives. A cutting angle of 150 is required to properly machine material with interlocked grain. The wood turns smoothly and requires little sanding to bring out a good finish. It glues v/ell, and takes stain and wax polish easily, but its purple colour is dissipated by spirit polishes; it is reported that a lacquer finish holds the purple colouring. The timber should be pre-bored for nailing to avoid splitting. Purpleheart is knife-cut, but more generally sawn for veneers without preparatory steaming. It is considered inadvisable to steam the wood as the colouring matter known as phonicoin is partially soluble under prolonged steaming.
Latin NamePeltogyne spp, Peltogyne pubescens, Peltogyne venosa var densiflora
Also known asPurpleheart
OriginMexico, Central America, South America, Brazil