Hard, heavy, durable sucupira is an ideal wood for flooring.

 

Family Name

Bowdichia nitida, Bowdichia virgilioides, Diplotropis purpurea and Diplotropis racemosa of the Family Fabaceae (Leguminosae).



Common Names

Sucupira, black sucupira, sacupira preta, sacupira amarela, sapupira, coeur dehors, acapa, alcornoque, armoteak, aramatia, aramatta, botonallare, peonia, tatabu and zwarte kabbes.



Height/Weight

The height varies widely, according to location. Trees (Bowdichia species) on favorable sites average from medium to tall, up to 150 feet, with 4-foot diameters. Diplotropis species average heights of 90 to 100 feet. The average weight range is from 58 to 62 pounds per cubic foot for all species.



Properties

Difficult to dry. Experts recommend a slow drying schedule to avoid

problems with cupping and checking.



Hard, heavy, dense wood that is very durable.



Heartwood is very durable to insect attack as well as white rot and brown rot fungi.



Wood’s extreme hardness can pose problems in working, such as resistance when cutting and blunting to cutting surfaces. Wood turns and glues well.

Grain usually straight to interlocked or slightly wavy.



Wood often has a golden luster and sometimes a waxy appearance. No

distinctive odor or taste.

South American hardwood sucupira’s fan base is far from universal. People who like the wood praise it for its great strength and outstanding durability. Sucupira’s across-the-board strength properties puts it near the top in ratings, almost as strong as greenheart. The wood loses points though for being hard to dry and difficult to work. It will cup and check during the kiln process unless extreme care is taken, along with a slow drying schedule. Interlocked grain makes for problems when cutting or planing the wood.

In the looks department, the reviews are equally mixed. Sucupira has been described as a “boring, muddy-brown wood” by some, while others describe it as a “lustrous chocolate brown with interesting golden striping.”

Sucupira is native to South America, primarily in Brazil and Venezuela, but also is found in Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana. In its natural setting, the wood is popular for a variety of uses, especially structural purposes and flooring. The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory’s Handbook, Tropical Timbers of the World, lists its uses as heavy construction work, boat building, flooring, furniture components, turnery, railroad crossties and tool handles.

World Woods in Color author William A. Lincoln writes that sucupira is excellent for domestic flooring. “It is too heavy for plywood manufacture, but selected logs are sliced for strikingly attractive, decorative veneers, used for inlay in furniture, doors and paneling.”

Myles Gilmer, Gilmer Wood Co., Portland, OR, estimates he sells from 2,000 to 3,000 board feet of sucupira a year. His clients use solid sucupira primarily for custom furniture applications. “It is an unusual but nice wood that’s not in great demand. One thing that I like and that I find striking about it is the end grain. Sucupira is a fairly coarse-textured wood, but the end grain has an open texture that feels almost warm to the touch,” said Gilmer.

Gilmer hasn’t seen it sliced into veneer and suspects that might be because of the nature of the wood. “I suspect it could be a little difficult to slice into veneer. It is very dense, heavy and hard, with a medium to coarse texture, and it can be a little on the brittle side.”

Jim Dumas, Certainly Wood, East Aurora, NY, has seen very little of sucupira veneer and not much of the solid lumber, either, although he says he has seen it used for benches.

“I think it is one of those woods used more for flooring. Some flooring woods, like jatoba, find their way into the veneer industry because people sometimes like kitchen elements and doors to match the flooring, for example. Sucupira might be too ‘young’ on the scene to have moved into additional uses,” said Dumas.

“It is tough as nails. The material I have seen had gold tones. The uniqueness of the wood might help to make it more popular. The gold look — what I call its gold powder — is what makes it unusual and gives it a kind of beauty. If it didn’t have the contrast, I doubt it would be used, but with the gold powder, it looks very cool,” he added.

A Wood of Many Names

Sucupira is one of those trees with a long list of commercial names, most likely because sucupira timber comes from no less than three genera. Species sold as sucupira include Bowdichia nitida, Bowdichia virgilioides, Diplotropis purpurea and Diplotropis racemosa, plus Ferreirea spectabilis, also known as yellow sucupira. Bowdichia species common names include sucupira, alcornoque, sapupira and sucupira parda. Diplotropis species names include sucupira, botonallare, peonia, tatabu, aramatta, zwarte kabbes, coeur dehors, sapupira and supupira.

Bowdichia species yield wood and veneer with a dull brown to reddish brown tone with parenchyma stripes and clearly demarcated white sapwood. The Diplotropis species yields a heartwood that is chocolate brown when first cut, but will lighten slightly with age and also has “fine lighter parenchyma stripes,” according to the U.S. Forest Product Laboratory’s Handbook, Tropical Timbers of the World.

Bowdichia species can grow up to 150 feet tall in ideal growing conditions. However, in less than ideal spots, the trees are much shorter. Sucupira from Diplotropis species averages 90 to 100 feet.

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