Frequently Asked Questions About Purpleheart Wood
Due to the unique characteristics of purpleheart wood, people tend to have lots of questions when they’re first introduced to it. We’ll address some of the most common below.
What Color is Purpleheart Wood?
To be fair, there are more than 20 types of peltogyne trees, and some don’t 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.
What Does the Grain Pattern of Purpleheart Wood Look Like?
Purpleheart wood is usually straight grained, though it can sometimes be wavy or display other patterns.
What are the Common Uses of Purpleheart Wood?
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, it’s used in flooring too.
Is Purpleheart Wood a Hardwood or Softwood?
There’s a common misconception that “hardwoods” are named such because they’re more durable than their counterparts. While that’s 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; they’re eudicots, a subgroup of dicot trees. That means purpleheart wood is a hardwood.
How Dense/ Hard is Purpleheart Wood?
To better understand how resilient, or resistant to denting and scratching, any given wood type is, the Janka hardness test is used. During the test, a small steel ball is pressed into the wood until it’s 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 it’s 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.
Can Purpleheart Wood Be Left Outside?
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 that’s typically harvested from endangered rainforests, it’s virtually unfathomable to think about leaving it outside.
Instead, consider buying cedar outdoor furniture or Polywood.
Where Does Purpleheart Wood Come From?
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.
Is Purpleheart Wood Sustainable?
Unfortunately, purpleheart wood is often harvested from endangered tropical rainforests and overharvesting, as well as illegal harvesting, is a major problem. At present, just 20% of the earth’s forests remain intact enough to serve their vital biological functions.
Is Purpleheart Wood Eco-Friendly? Are Purple Heart Trees Endangered?
At present, there are no peltogyne trees on 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, and feeds 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 you’re 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.
Why is Purpleheart Wood So Expensive?
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. It’s 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.
Where to Buy Purpleheart Wood Furniture Online
We don’t 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 don’t 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 you’re smitten with the durability or regal hue of purpleheart wood, we think you’ll 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 our maple, oak, walnut, and cherry 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 you’re in the market for outdoor wood furniture, check out our Polywood collection.