Purpleheart wood, often referred to as amaranth, violet wood, amendoim, peltogyne, and other names, grows throughout Central and South America, primarily in the Amazon Basin. Its prized for its unusual hue, which starts off as a medium brown color with faint purple accents, but deepens to an intense eggplant purple over time.
Purpleheart has been heavily exploited for decades because of its beautiful purple color, as well as its strength and durability. It is increasingly rare, and is nearing extinction in parts of its original range.
Because purpleheart is exotic and originates in Central and South America, we discourage its use in the US. The environmental toll of harvesting and transporting this beautiful wood is high. Alternatively, look towards cherry or walnut for indoor use, or cedar for outdoor use.
|Color||Brownish-Purple to Eggplant|
|Source||Purpleheart Tree (Peltogyne)|
|Hardness||1860 on the Janka scale|
|Cost||$14 to $45 per board feet|
|Common Uses||Outdoor Furniture, Indoor Furniture, Cabinetry, Musical Instruments, Jewelry|
Due to the unique characteristics of purpleheart wood, people tend to have lots of questions when theyre first introduced to it. Well address some of the most common below.
To be fair, there are more than 20 types of peltogyne trees, and some dont produce wood with the characteristic purple hue. However, in its most common form, purpleheart wood starts off as a medium brown, often with purple undertones, and then darkens to an eggplant shade within a matter of weeks.
Purpleheart wood is usually straight grained, though it can sometimes be wavy or display other patterns.
Traditionally, purpleheart wood has been used most in furniture; both indoors and out. Cabinetry, woodturning, musical instruments, and small objects often utilize the wood as well. Occasionally, its used in flooring too.
Theres a common misconception that hardwoods are named such because theyre more durable than their counterparts. While thats often the case, the terms actually denote the type of tree the wood comes from.
Hardwoods come from leafy trees, typically dicots, and softwoods come from conifer trees, which usually fall within the gymnosperm group. Ergo, a few common hardwoods are oak, cherry, walnut, and maple, while pine, cedar, and fir are among the most well-known softwoods.
Peltogyne trees are leafy with small white flowers; theyre eudicots, a subgroup of dicot trees. That means purpleheart wood is a hardwood.
To better understand how resilient, or resistant to denting and scratching, any given wood type is, theJanka hardness test is used. During the test, a small steel ball is pressed into the wood until its embedded half way and the amount of force required to accomplish the task is recorded either as pounds of force (lbf) or Janka.
Purpleheart wood is rated 1,860 Janka, which means its incredibly dense and durable. Of all the commonly used domestic hardwoods, sugar maple is the closest at 1,450 Janka, with white oak not far behind at 1,360 Janka. To give additional perspective, softwoods like Douglas fir and eastern white pine sit at 660 Janka and 420 Janka, respectively.
Read more about the Janka Values of North American Hardwoods.
The extractives in purpleheart wood make it very resistant to rot and insects, but any natural wood left outdoors will eventually succumb to the elements and require regular maintenance. In the case of a species thats typically harvested from endangered rainforests, its virtually unfathomable to think about leaving it outside.
Instead, consider buying cedar outdoor furniture or Polywood.
Purpleheart wood comes from trees within the peltogyne genus, which encompasses more than 20 different species of trees that are native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. The trees tend to be large, growing as high as 160 feet tall and developing diameters of up to five feet.
Unfortunately, purpleheart wood is oftenharvested from endangered tropical rainforests and overharvesting, as well as illegal harvesting, is a major problem. At present, just 20% of the earths forests remain intact enough to serve their vital biological functions.
At present, there are no peltogyne treeson the endangered list. However, the harvest of woods like Purpleheart, Teak, and Mahogany contributes to the destruction of rainforests, devastates the homes of indigenous peoples, threatens wildlife, andfeeds international crime rings. Moreover, purpleheart wood must travel a considerable distance to reach consumers in the United States, which means the carbon footprint is amplified considerably compared to domestic options.
In short, it is not an eco-friendly choice. Rainforest Relief, an organization dedicated to preserving the rainforests, recommends that those looking for exterior furniture select recycled plastic lumber, like our Polywood collection, and mentions alternatives such as hard maple, red oak, white oak, and walnut, for interior furniture. If youre looking for outdoor furniture made of wood, consider cedar, which grows domestically and has some of the same rot-resistant characteristics of Purpleheart and Teak.
Any wood that comes from the rainforests is usually going to be expensive, in part because of the restrictions on logging and export and due to the transportation costs. Purpleheart wood is also challenging to work with. Its a very hearty wood designed by nature to withstand the weather and pests. The extractives that give purpleheart wood these properties are so thick and gummy that they often wreak havoc on woodworking tools.
We dont recommend purchasing purpleheart wood furniture online or anywhere else.
As responsible stewards of the earth, we believe in choosing sustainably-sourced, eco-friendly wood furniture. That means we dont sell purpleheart furniture. Our craftsmen mindfully choose domestic wood from sustainable sources, and opt for locally-grown wood as much as possible. They not only create stunning high-quality pieces that will fill your home with beauty for years, but ensure you can feel good about your decision as well.
Whether youre smitten with the durability or regal hue of purpleheart wood, we think youll be equally smitten with our domestic and eco-friendly choices that are often made to order and can be customized to suit your wishes. Explore ourmaple,oak,walnut, andcherry indoor furniture and feel free to reach out if you have questions about how to achieve a certain look or which wood type is best suited to your lifestyle. Or, if youre in the market for outdoor wood furniture, check out our Polywood collection.
Learn more about our wood types on our wood page, or use the links below to read about specific types: