The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Tropical Forest Products

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Tropical Forest Products
Edition of 1920. See also Forest product on Wikipedia, Forest Trees, Tropical in The Encyclopedia Americana, and the disclaimer.

TROPICAL FOREST PRODUCTS. The products of forests are usually divided into two great groups, as follows: (1) Major forest products, such as wood used for construction purposes and for special uses, as furniture, cabinet work, wood used for small articles of all kinds, etc.; (2) Minor forest products include firewood, tannin extracts, dyes, rubber, gutta percha, rattan, bamboo, wood oils, resins and various forest plants that produce medicinal products, like quinine, cocaine, sarsaparilla, epicac, camphor, etc. As a matter of fact, the value of these minor products of tropical forests consumed in the world's markets greatly exceed the value of the major products. Indeed, so great is the demand for some of the minor forest products that many of them have almost entirely become cultivated ones. Ten or 15 years ago while most of the rubber of commerce came from a wild forest tree (Hevca braziliensis) of the Amazon valley, approximately 80 per cent of the rubber used to-day is from cultivated plantations of this tree in the Eastern tropics.

Kapoc is the commercial name for the cotton from the so-called cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) and is a native of tropical America, but the chief source of this valuable product, used principally in stuffing mattresses, is from plantations in Java. Formerly the chief source of the Peruvian bark, quinine (Cinchona species) was from the wild forests of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Today most of the quinine comes from cultivated plantations in India and Java. The lack of cheap labor in the American tropics is the chief reason why these valuable products are cultivated in the Eastern tropics.

Because the climatic conditions of temperate regions are not favorable for the production of many tropical minor forest products, the temperate markets must always depend on the tropics for most of them unless synthetic products can be substituted. While efforts made to produce synthetic rubber have not proved successful, yet the manufacture of synthetic dyes has greatly reduced the demands for the dye woods of the tropics, hence until the war greatly, but temporarily, stimulated the use of tropical dye woods, the amount of these woods used in the markets is not likely to be greatly increased.

On the other hand tropical woods for construction purposes have not been in demand in the great lumber markets of the world, the United States and Europe, principally because the forest of these regions have light timbers in large quantities that are better suited for general construction timbers than the so-called hardwoods of the tropics. The coniferous woods, or softwoods, of the temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia stand in sharp contrast with that of the hardwood forests of the tropics. On the one hand coniferous forests occur in pure, or nearly pure, stands that make their lumbering on a large scale more profitable, hence the lumber industry has been highly developed; on the other hand the hardwood tropical forests are more complex in character and usually far away from well-developed industrial regions, hence capital has not been attracted to their exploitation on a large scale. Moreover, because of the great development of the lumber industry, especially in the United States, there has been an over-production; the surplus finds its way to all parts of the world and large amounts have been absorbed by tropical countries. The contribution that tropical forests have made to the lumber markets has been woods for special uses rather than those for general construction purposes. Many woods of tropical countries are used locally for general construction purposes, that never find their way into outside markets. The study of tropical forests show that while they are more complex in composition than coniferous forests of temperate regions, yet this complexity is not so great as formerly supposed. The complexity is increased by the undergrowth trees that do not reach commercial size. The trees that reach huge size and overtop the undergrowth species are composed of comparatively few species whose woods are little known. Also, a large percentage of these trees produce rather soft hardwoods that are easily worked. Thus, the estimated stand of timber in the Philippines is 200,000,000,000 board feet, more than 100,000,000,000 of which are light hardwoods that can be and are being substituted locally for many purposes to which imported coniferous woods were put. These forests also occur in sufficiently heavy stands to warrant the establishment of fairly large lumbering operations that will reduce the cost of their utilization. A recent estimate of the area and stand of timber in some of the large tropical forest regions is as follows:

area in
Stand of
timber in
 board feet 

Southern Brazil 260  650
Amazon Basin 1,024  3,400
Northern South America  200  500
Indo-Malay Region 320  1,600

 Total 1,804  6,150

The forested area of the United States is estimated at 550,000,000 acres, carrying a stand of timber of 2,800,000,000,000 board feet. Thus the Amazon region alone is estimated to have some 600,000,000,000 feet more than is found in the United States.

At the present time it is not possible to connect the market or local name of many of the tropical woods with the specific scientific name of the trees producing them, for much systematic work in botany is necessary before this can be done. Indeed, as in some temperate woods, a group of species stands for the wood. Thus the term oak stands for several species of the genus Quercus and the trade term pine refers to a large number of species of Pinus and even to many other coniferous woods not of this genus. Also where adjectives are prefixed to the market names, the name may include more than one species; several species of oak produce “white oak,” and “southern yellow pine” is the product of a number of species of Pinus. The same holds true for tropical woods. An attempt is made below to classify some of the principal groups of tropical woods. These include many of those that are found in American and European markets, and a few that play an important rôle in the countries in which they occur.

I. The Mahogany Family (Meliaceæ). — 1. The “true” mahogany originally came from Swietenia mahagoni Jacq. and seems to be entirely restricted to the West Indies and Southern Florida. Late investigations show that the Swietenias of southern Mexico, Central America and, perhaps, Colombia, are two different species and at least some of that from Venezuela is a fourth species.

The wood of the four species is accepted as true mahogany, and when placed on the market usually bears the name of the place or region from which it comes. Thus we have Cuban, Santo Domingo, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexican, etc., mahogany. Santo Domingo mahogany is considered the most desirable grade. Throughout this range the wood is locally known under the Spanish name of caoba. The different grades of mahogany vary in weight from 35 to 52 pounds per cubic foot, and cannot be considered as very heavy. Mahogany is red in color, beautifully grained, easily worked and is durable. It takes a natural polish, is adapted to stains and takes glue well. The combination of these qualities makes it the furniture wood par excellence of the world. Most of the substitutes of true mahogany fail in one or more of these qualities and hence are inferior.

2. African Mahogany.—The growing scarcity of easily-accessible true mahogany has led to the introduction of many woods as substitutes. The best of these belong to the same family (Meliaceæ). Under the general name of African mahogany the tropical regions of West Africa have supplied large quantities of mahogany. Perhaps the best known of these is the Gambia or Senegal mahogany (Khaya senegalensis, A. Juss.), although other species of this genus and species of the genera Trichilia, Carapa, Entandrophragma and a number of species ot other families furnish African mahogany.

Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - African mahogany logs.jpg

African mahogany logs in West Africa

3. Spanish cedar, Cigar box wood, Cedro. — The above are the commercial names of a number of species of the genus Cedrela which occur throughout the American tropics from the West Indies and Mexico to Paraguay and northern Argentina. The original Spanish cedar (Cedrela odarata L.) appears to be confined to the West Indies and has a strong cedar odor, hence the name. It is used mostly for cigar boxes. Most of the Cedrelas of the American continent, known everywhere under the Spanish name of cedro, seem not to hold this strong odor when exposed to the air for some time. The wood of cedro closely resembles that of true mahogany in many respects, except that it is usually much softer and lighter in weight. The heavier grades are about the same weight as the lightest mahoganies. There is little doubt that some of the so-called mahogany found in the markets is really cedro. Cedro is a common and much-prized wood in the markets throughout all Latin American countries, especially in Argentina. It is used for furniture and light construction work, principally interior finish of houses. The genus Toona (formerly called Cedrela) found in parts of the eastern tropics produces woods almost identical with that of cedro. In the Philippines a species of this genus (Toona calantas, Merr. & Rolfe) has the common name of calantas, and in India another species has the common name of toon.

4. Carapa or Demarara Mahogany (Guiana), Andiroba or Brasilian mahogany (Amazon region). — In the lowlands from the mouth of the Orinoco River (Venezuela), in the Guianas and to and including the Amazon Valley, is found a wood bearing the above names which is the product of Carapa guianensis Aubl. This wood resembles mahogany in some respects but is much coarser grained. It makes a good, cheap substitute for this wood, but is locally used for much the same purposes as cedro.

Besides the above woods all belonging to the mahogany family, together with others of less importance, there are a large number of species belonging to different families that appear in the markets under the name of mahogany. In all about 60 such species have been listed. The most important of these are discussed below in connection with the family to which they belong.

II. The Locust Family (Leguminosiæ). — The locust family, represented in our temperate flora by such trees as the black locust, honey locust and others, has a large number of species of soft, hard and very hard woods that are used locally in the tropics for all sorts of purposes, and some of them find their way into temperate markets.

1. Rosewoods, Jacarandá or Caviúna (Brazil); Blackwood (India). — The name “rose” was applied to this wood because of a fragrant odor resembling that of the rose. Similar woods without the odor also bear this name. The woods are dense, heavy, durable and are dark brown or black in color, sometimes streaked with purple, rose and other colors. Their chief use is in furniture, pianos, inlaying and small turnery objects. The main source of the rosewoods is Brazil. Here the true rosewood of the Rio de Janeiro region is referred to Dalbergia nigra Allem, and that of the Amazon region to Dalbergia spruceana Hub., but it is known that a number of species of Machærium produce rosewood. The rosewoods of Central America are supposed to come from species of Dalbergia. A similar wood of Colombia under the name of negrillo or granadillo is a species of Machærium, though the name granadillo is applied to a number of other woods. The Indian rosewood is Dalbergia latifolia Roxb. A similar wood (Dalbergia melanoxylon Guill. & Perr.), under the name of Senegal ebony, comes from Africa. In a broad sense the cocobola wood of Panama (Dalbergia retusa Hemsl.) can be classified as a rosewood. Other woods of less importance in different genera of this family and species of other families are often classed as rosewoods. Some of these have the blackish color and others are classified as rosewood because of their rose color.

2. Padauk (India); Narra (Philippines); African Padauk (Africa). — The genus Pterocarpus produces a number of woods usually of a beautiful red color, but sometimes yellowish red and even nearly black. These woods have a similar use to those of the rosewoods and are sometimes given the name of mahogany. The chief source of the best padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides Roxb.) is the Adaman Islands (India), though P. indicus Willd. and other species of Burma and India and the Philippines produce similar woods. In the Philippines the local name is narra. It has been exported to the United States under the name of Philippine mahogany.

3. Brazilwood; Logwood, or Campeche. Brazilwood is a reddish yellow wood mainly produced by certain species of the genus Cæsalpinia, and perhaps by Hæmatoxylon brasilleto Karst. It is exported chiefly as a dyewood. Brazilwood from the eastern tropics was known in Europe before America was discovered. When Brazil was discovered, because of the abundance of this wood along the coast in the region of Rio de Janeiro, the country was named after the wood. C. sappan L., and perhaps related species, is the source of brazilwood from the Eastern tropics. It is known in India under the name of sappan-wood and in the Philippines as sibucao. While scattered throughout the American tropics, the chief commercial source is Brazil and the Caribbean Sea region. The source of the wood from Brazil seems to be C. echinata Lamck., though there is some doubt about it. It is known locally as ibirapitanga or páo Brazil, and also has the export name of Pernambuco wood. The brazilwood of the Caribbean region seems to be mostly Hæmatoxylon brazilleto. Logwood or campeche (Hæmatoxylon campechianum L.) is blood red in color and yields a dye (stain) known as hæmatoxylon. It comes chiefly from Southern Mexico and Central America. It is semi-cultivated in India and parts of the West Indies.

4. Dividivi (Cæsalpinia coriaria Willd.).—The pods of this tree are rich in tannin and they are exported in considerable quantities principally from Colombia and Venezuela where the tree grows in dry districts where it is wild or semi-cultivated.

5. Tonka bean (Guianas and Venezuela); Cumarú (Amazon). — The beans of this tree (Dipteryx odorata Willd., and one or more closely related species) after being treated in casks of rum, are exported in considerable quantities principally from the region south of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. They are used in making perfumes and flavoring extracts. The wood of cumarú is very hard, difficult to work, yellow in color, streaked with red, and is used to some extent in the Amazon region.

6. West Indian Locust; Courbaril; Algarroba (Venezuela and Colombia), Jatahy (Brazil). — The West Indian locust is the English name for a wood produced by Hymenæa courbaril L., although in Brazil, under the name of jatahy, besides the above, there are several species of Hymenæa that give similar woods. The wood is red with dark streaks. It is used locally but little exported. The different species yield a resin known as South American copal, or courbaril, which is exported in considerable quantities especially from northeastern Brazil. Bodies of the resin are deposited in the ground on the death of the tree and are thus mined.

7. Copahyba.—This is the Brazilian name of a wood similar to the West Indian locust and with the same uses. It is produced by several species of the genus Copaifera. The tree produces an oil known as aciete or copaiba oil that is exported to some extent. It is found also in northern South America and neighboring regions.

8. Araribia (Brazil); Cartan (Venezuela); Guayacan jobo (Colombia); Amarillo di Guayaquil (Panama). — This group of woods comes from several species of the genus Centrolobium. The woods vary from a bright reddish yellow to yellow streaked with darker color. They are used quite extensively locally, especially in Brazil and deserve to be exported as fine furniture woods.

9. Acapú. — The acapú (Vouacapoua americana Aubl.) is a reddish brown wood, with dark, almost black, streaks, and very hard and heavy, that comes from the Amazon valley and is exported in some quantities.

10. Purpleheart, Violet wood; Guarabú or Páo Roxo (Brazil); Nazareno (Panama); Tananeo (Colombia). — These woods are generally referred to the genus Peltogyne and found from Panama to Brazil, though species of closely related genera may produce some of them. The woods are dark purple, sometimes with violet shades. They are quite extensively used in Brazil and British Guiana for many purposes. Some of them yield an odorous resin used medicinally and a red dye used for textile fabrics. Purpleheart has been exported from British Guiana and neighboring islands.

11. Balsamo; Balsamo de Tolu (Colombia); Oleo or Cabreúva (Brazil); Incienso (Argentina). — The geueral name of balsamo is here applied to a group of woods that come from the genera Myroxylon and Myrocarpus. The woods are dark or yellowish red in color and the bark or wood or both yield oily substances. The bark of the balsamo of Colombia (Myroxylon balsamum [L] Harms.) yields a resinous oil, balsamo de tolu, that is exported to some extent. The woods are used locally and deserve to find wider markets. The cabreúva orf São Paulo, Brazil, is probably the most used. The incienso of Argentina, a scented wood, is highly valued in Argentina.

12. Ipil (Philippines); Mirabeau (Borneo and Malay Peninsula). — The genus Instia especially Instia bejugo [Colebr.] O. Ktze. is the main source of the wood. It is yellow when fresh cut but turns reddish brown to chocolate color when exposed. It is highly valued for construction work in contact with the ground. In the Philippines it is one of the principal woods used for railroad ties.

13. Tindalo (Philippines).— This wood is the product of Pahudia rhomboidia (Blanco) Prain. The wood is yellowish red, becoming very dark with age. It is greatly prized for flooring, fine interior finish and furniture.

14. Acle (Philippines); Pyingado (Burma). — Both these woods resemble each other closely in structure. In color they are dark brown and resemble in this respect the black walnut. The acle (Albizzia acle [Blanco] Merr.) is highly prized in the Philippines as a fine furniture wood. The pyingado (Xylia dolabriformis Benth.) grows in the teak forests and is used extensively for railroad ties.

The above are only a few of the many woods produced by the Leguminosæ.

III. Lauan or Dipterocarp Family (Dipterocarpaceæ). — From the standpoint of producing lumber for general construction purposes this is the most important tropical family, because the species compose a large percentage of the lumber in the forests in which they occur, and the woods are easily cut and worked. The family is confined to the eastern tropics, especially to Borneo, the Philippines, Sumatra, Malay Peninsula and parts of Burma and India. With respect to their hardness and durability the woods can be divided into a number of groups.

1. Lauan, Tanguile (Philippines); Seriah or Meranti (Borneo, Malay Peninsula). — This group of woods is found throughout nearly the whole range of the family. Besides the above there are very many local names for the different species which belong to genera Pentacme, Parashorea, and certain species of Shorea. They are the most abundant of the dipterocarps. The woods of the lauans (to use the local Philippine name for the whole group) are all light hardwoods, not durable, as easily worked as pine; locally they are used for all light construction purposes. In regard to color they are classified as white and red lauans. The latter include tanguile. The better grades of the red lauans show resemblance to mahogany and large quantities have been shipped to the United States for mahogany. Of these tanguile (Shorea polysperma [Blanco] Merr.) is the best. In the United States it is usually sold under the name of Bataan mahogany. The product of other species, mostly Shorea negrosensis Fox., sells in the United States as Philippine mahogany. Certain red lauans from Borneo are sometimes sold in England as Borneo redwood.

Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - Tanguile.jpg

Tanguile (Shorea polysperma), Philippine Islands. Wood of this tree is sold in the United States under the name of Bataan mahogany

2. Apitong (Philippines); Kruen (Borneo and Malay); Eng. (Burma), and other names for these and other regions. — This group of woods belongs to the genus Dipterocarpus. In contrast with lauan, apitong is a moderately, not very durable, hard wood, of a reddish brown color. It finds its greatest use for heavier construction purposes not in contact with the ground.

3. Yacal (Philippines); Selangan batu (British North Borneo and Dutch East Indies); Ressak (Dutch East Indies); Thingan (India), and other local names for these and other regions. — This group of woods is the product of certain species of the genera Hopea and Shorea. The yacals are dark brown in color and are the hard, durable woods of this family. They are comparatively easily worked and are most valuable for construction work in contact with the soil and any construction where durability and great strength are required. They are a good substitute for teak in many classes of shipbuilding.

4. Guijo (Philippines); Sal (India). — These woods are like the apitongs but finer grained and more durable. The Sal (Shorea robusta (Gaertn. f.) is one of the most important timbers of India. The guijo (Shorea guiso [Blanco] Blume) is one of the most useful timbers of the Philippines,

5. Borneo camphor; Kapor (Malay name). — This wood, the product of Dryobalanops aromatica Gärtn. yields a substance that closely resembles camphor for which it is sometimes used. It is known only from Borneo, Sumatra, and the southern end of the Malay Peninsula.

Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - Parana Pine with Embura.jpg Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - Cedro.jpg
Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - Lepacho.jpg Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - Lauan or Dipterocarp forest.jpg
1 Parana Pine (Araucaria braziliana), forest of Southern Brazil. The undergrowth tree is Embura (Nectandra sp.), the timber de luxe of the region. 2 Cedro or Spanish Cedar (Cedrela sp.), in the forests of Southern Brazil. Cedro is one of the most common woods used throughout tropical America. 3 Lepacho (Tecoma sp.), in the Alto Parana region of Argentina. Equivalents of this wood, belonging to closely related species of the genus Tecoma, occur in the forests from Mexico to Northern Argentina. 4 A Lauan or Dipterocarp forest of the Philippine Islands. Among the species in this forest is Red Lauan (Shorea negrosensis), whose wood is sometimes sold as Philippine mahogany in the United States

IV. The Brazil-nut or Monkey Pot Family (Lecythidaceæ). — This family is confined mostly to South America. The woods of the family, while at present little used, promise to play an important role in the future lumber industry of South America, because in many places the members of the family are very abundant. The important members of the family have large cup-shaped fruits, called by the English monkey pots. The trees of the family are the giants of the forests, and in parts of the Magdalena Valley, the Amazon Valley, British Guiana and the coastal forests of Brazil they form the most important element in the composition of the forest

1. Brazil nut; castanheiro (Brazil). — The Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa H.B.K.} is one of the largest trees of the Amazon and is the source of the Brazil nuts of commerce. Because of the value of the nuts the wood is little used.

2. Colombian mahogany, Aibarco (Colombia). — The wood of this tree is the product of Cariniana pyriformis Miers. It is abundant in foothills bordering the large rivers. Because of the resemblance to mahogany it has been shipped to the United States under the name of Colombian mahogany.

3. Jequitibá (Brazil).— This is the product of several species of Cariniana (by some authors, Couratari) and is abundant in the coastal forests from Bahia to São Paulo, and the interior of the state of São Paulo. The wood is reddish, comparatively soft and would make a better substitute for mahogany than albarco, because it is more easily worked. In Brazil it is used for construction purposes.

4. Monkey pots, Coco de Mono (Colombia); Kakeralli (British Guiana); Sapucaya (Brazil). — This group of woods is the product of several species of the genus Lecythis and occurs from São Paulo, Brazil, to Panama. The wood, reddish brown in color, is used locally for construction purposes in contact with the ground, and in Brazil is especially valuable for railroad ties. Several species from Brazil with the name of sapucaya furnish the so-called paradise-nut of commerce.

5. Other woods in the Amazon Valley worthy of mention are the following: Matamata (Eschweilera matamata and other species) is a wood highly valued for salt-water construction because it resists well the action of the shipworm (teredo). The touarys are products of several species of the genus Couratari and are used locally for shipbuilding.

V. The Laurel Family (Lauraceæ). — Besides producing the cinnamon (Cinnamonum zeylanicum Breyn.), found in South and West India, and Ceylon where it is extensively cultivated; the camphor (Cinnamonum camphora [L.] Nees & Eberm.) principally from Formosa; and the alligator pear, or aguacate, or avocado (Persea americana Mill.), originating in parts of the American tropics and widely cultivated, this family produces a great variety of timbers found scattered throughout the tropics. In the American tropics many of these timbers occur under the general names of canella (Spanish and Portuguese), laurel (Spanish) and louro (Portuguese). The best-known woods are the following: (1) Greenheart (Nectandra rodioei Schomb.) found principally in British Guiana from which country it is exported as a first-class wood for salt-water construction purposes. Large quantities of it were used in the building of the Panama Canal. When fresh cut the wood is grayish brown in color but on exposure turns to a dark green or chestnut color. (2) Billian or Borneo Ironwood (Eusideroxylon swageri T. and B.) is the eastern counterpart of the greenheart so far as use is concerned. It is exported mostly from British North Borneo. The wood is yellow when fresh cut, but on exposure turns to a glossy brown. (3) Embuia (species of Nectandra) is the lumber de luxe of parts of Southern Brazil and because of its great durability is extensively used as a railroad tie. It occurs in the Paraná pine forests of the states of Paraná and Santa Catharina, Brazil.

VI. The Quebracho or Sumac Family (Anacardaceæ). — This is the family to which the sumac and poison ivy of our flora belong. The best known member of this family is the tree that produces the mango fruit (Mangifera indica L.), a native of the eastern tropics but introduced throughout the western tropics.

1. Quebracho (Argentina and Paraguay). — The wood of this tree (Schinopsis balansæ Engl.) yields a valuable extract much used for tanning purposes and locally it also furnishes a very durable railroad tie. It is logged mostly in northern Argentina and the value of the exports of wood and tannin extract reach a higher figure perhaps than the value of all the other exported forest products of South America except rubber. The wood of another species (S. lorentzii [Griseb.] Engl.), also called quebracho, and found in northern Argentina principally, contains tannin, but at the present time it is little used for this purpose. The woods of a number of other South American species of this and other families are called quebracho. These should not be confused with the real quebracho, although some of them do contain tannin.

2. Gonçalo Alves (Brazil); Diomate (Colombia); Gateado (Venezuela); Urunday (Argentina), and other local names for these and other parts of the American tropics. This group of woods comes from several species of the genus Astronium which presumably extends from Central America to northern Argentina. It has been introduced in the United States under the name of king wood. In color the wood is brownish red with black, or nearly black, streaks. It is used for construction purposes (in Brazil for railroad ties) and as a cabinet and furniture wood.

3. Espava (Panama); Caracoli ((Colombia and Venezuela); Mija or Mijagua (Venezuela). — This is reddish, moderately soft wood, found in northern South America and adjoining regions, and is used locally to some extent as a light construction material. From Panama it has been exported to the United States under the name of espave mahogany. It is the product of Anacardium rhinocarpus D. C.

VII. The Teak Family (Verbenaceæ). — Teak (Tectona grandis Linn.) has long been known as the best shipbuilding lumber in the world. The wood is moderately hard, very durable, strongly scented, dark golden yellow in color, turning brown to almost black with age. It is mainly the product of Burma and India, though there are extensive plantations in Java and smaller ones in other parts of the eastern tropics. In the Philippines, Molave (Vitex paviflora Juss.) is another member of this family that is locally very much used, especially for shipbuilding and construction work in contact with the ground.

VIII. Miscellaneous Woods.—1. A group of woods known as Lepacho (Argentina), Ipé or Páo d'arco (Brazil), Surinam Greenheart (Guiana), Araguanay (Venezuela), Guayacan (Colombia, Ecuador and Panama) and many other local names, are of a greenish or brownish yellow color, hard, durable and much used for heavy construction work in contact with the ground. They belong to various species of the genus Tecoma (Catalpa or Bignoneaceæ family). Some guayacan has been shipped to the United States under the name of Lignum Vitæ. (See below).

2. Peroba.—This is the generic common name for a group of rose colored or brownish yellow woods that occupy the most common place in the hardwood markets of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (Brazil). They are moderately hard, easily worked, and are used for heavy and light construction work, interior finish and for making furniture. The peroba rosa (known as carreto in Colombia and Venezuela), and in part the peroba amarello (Brazil), are the product of certain species of Aspidosperma (Apocynaceæ). Much of the peroba amarello seems to come from certain species of Tecoma of the Bignoniaceæ.

3. West India or Venezuela Boxwood. — The growing scarcity of the true boxwood (Buxus sempervirens L.), valuable for rulers and wood-engraving, has led to the introduction of some tropical woods as substitutes. The chief candidates for these substitutes seem to be the following: (a) Roble blanco, a Tecoma species (Bignoniaceæ) from Venezuela and West Indies; (b) species of Casearia (Flacourtiaceæ), principally from the Maracaibo region of Venezuela, and certain species of Aspidosperma (Apocynaceæ) from Venezuela. The last two usually are known under the name of zapatero. Certain species of Aspidosperma under the name of piquiá marfim or marfim (marble) are found in southern Brazil, although these seem not to have been exported as boxwood. The woods mentioned above are light yellow in color, fine grained, and hard and compact.

4. Laurel (Spanish), Louro (Brazil). — Scattered throughout the moist regions of the American tropics, under the above names, are a group of woods belonging to the genus Cordia (Borraginaceæ). They are brownish in color, strong and easily worked, hence are much used for certain classes of construction work. The woods under these names should not be confused with the members of the Lauraceæ family mentioned above.

5. Balsa wood or cork-wood. — Scattered throughout the damp American tropics, usually under the name of balsa, are a group of very light woods (about eight pounds to the cubic foot) that have recently been much used in the making of buoys for life boats and are now being used for lining refrigerators. They are usually referred to Ochroma lagopus Sw. (Bombacaceæ), but it appears now that several species of this genus produce this wood.

6. Kapoc; Cotton tree; Ceiba (Spanish); Samaúma (Brazil). — The kapoc of commerce is the cotton from the fruits of a tree (Ceiba pentandra Gærtn., family Bombacaceæ) , and is exported mainly from planted trees in Java, and is used extensively in stuffing mattresses. The tree, however, is a native of the moist American tropics and is one of the largest in the forests. The wood is very soft and at present is very little used.

7. Ebony.—The true ebonies of commerce come usually from certain species of the genus Diospyros, the persimmon family (Ebenaceæ). The trees that produce this wood are found very scattered throughout the tropical forests of both hemispheres. The woods are very hard and dense and generally black or brown streaked with black. The growing scarcity of true ebony has led to the introduction of many substitutes belonging to species of other families.

8. Fustic, Mora (Latin America). — Fustic is the market name of perhaps the most important dyewood of commerce. It is mainly exported from the Caribbean Sea region of the American tropics. It is the product of Chlorophora tinctoria L. Gaud. of the family Moraceæ. It is used in dyeing shades of yellow, brown, olive and green.

9. Lignum Vitæ; Guayacan (Spanish). — This is usually the product of various species of Guiacum officinale L. and Guiacum sanctum L., although other species of Guiacum, Bulnesia arborea Engl. (locally known from Venezuela as vera), and Bulnesia sarmienti Lorentz (known from Argentina as palo santo), furnish some of the wood. They all belong to the family Zygophyllaceæ. The wood reaches the markets of the world principally from the West Indies, Northern South America and Central America. The wood is much used in certain parts of shipbuilding especially in stern bushings and for bowling balls, bed castors, pulleys, etc. It is extremely hard and heavy and oily.

IX. The Mangrove Family (Rhisophoraceæ) — The mangrove forests of the tidal swamps of tropical regions, composed mostly of species of the above family, are literally forests of the sea. Although found best developed in the estuaries of large rivers in the eastern tropics, they are also present in the western hemisphere. Here one species (Rhizophora mangle L.) is found, while in the Eastern tropics a number of species of this genus, and of the genera Bruguiera and Ceriops, form the main composition of the forests. While there are many local names for the different species in the eastern hemisphere, the general local name in the Philippines and Spanish America is mangle, and in Brazil, mangue. In proportion to the area they cover they are locally the most valuable of all the forests for they are the main source of firewood and tannin extracts. The latter, especially from Borneo, is exported in considerable quantities.

X. The Pine Family (Pinaceæ). — While the woods of the pine family are marketed mainly from temperate zones, mostly the North Temperate, yet the highlands of the tropics and subtropics contain a number of “pines” that are used locally and are coming to be exported to some extent. Many of the true pines (Pinus) and other genera of the western part of the United States extend into Mexico and in some parts form extensive forests. Pine in merchantable quantities is also found in parts of the West Indies, and in Guatemala and Honduras of Central America. Preparations are already being made to exploit these forests. India, Burma and the Philippines contain true pines that are used locally. The lower slopes of the Himalayas in India also contain other genera of the family that are quite extensively utilized. In the semi-tropical regions of the Brazilian states of Paraná, Santa Catharina and Rio Grande del Sul, and in the state of Missiones (Argentina), occur very large areas of the Paraná pine (Araucaria braziliana A. Rich.). There forests contain about 200 billion board feet of standing timber and are playing an important rôle in furnishing softwood lumber to the adjoining industrial regions of southern Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

XI. Bamboos (Graminæa).—The bamboos and their allies are the grass trees of the tropics. They furnish cheap wood for the poorer classes for construction purposes and for almost every use to which wood can be put. Bamboos are more abundant in the eastern than in the western tropics where, besides occurring as constituent parts of some wild forests, they are extensively planted, also to some extent throughout the western tropics. The construction bamboos belong principally to certain species of the genera Bambusa, Arundinaria and Dendrocalamus. While wild bamboos occur in the western tropics and are cultivated to some extent, they do not play so important a part in the life of the people. In certain parts allies of the bamboos or canes take their place. These are the cana brava (Gynerium sagittatum [Aubl.] Beauv.), and species of Guada known locally in the Amazon as taboca and in Ecuador under the market name of Guayaquil cane. This is rather extensively exported as a construction wood to the dry treeless coastal regions of Peru and Northern Chile.

XII. Palms (Palmæ). — In regions where bamboos are not abundant palms largely take their place as construction timbers. Besides they furnish a large number of minor forest products. Certain palms produce food, in others the nuts produce valuable oils, and some yield wax, and from others vegetable ivory is obtained. Besides the cocoanut and the date palms which are really not forest products, the following are mentioned because they produce products that are extensively exported:

1. The ivory nut palm or vegetable ivory. — The ivory nut is the product of a number. of species of the genus Phytetephas. It is found in portions of Ecuador, Colombia and the Amazon. At present it is one of the principal exports of Ecuador and this country is the chief source of the nuts. Ivory nuts are principally used for buttons, but many small objects like checkers, chess, etc., are made from it.

2. Rattans. — The rattans of commerce are the product of several species of the genus Calamus and related genera. They are climbing palms, in some cases they reach the great length of 400 or more feet, and clamber from tree to tree in the forests. They are confined to the eastern tropics. They furnish the main cordage of the countries in which they grow. When exported and in the round they are used for canes, umbrella handles and for making chairs; and “split” rattans find their greatest use for seats and backs of chairs.

3. The Oil Palm. — The nut of this palm is extensively exported from West Africa for the valuable oil it contains. It is also found in Brazil where it was introduced from Africa. Here it is used locally only. It is the product of Elæris guieensis Jacq.

4. Wax Palm.—This palm yields a wax that comes from scales on the underside of the leaf. The palm is Copernicia cerifera L. and is exported mainly from northeastern Brazil.

5. The Panama Hat Palm. — This belongs to the Cyclanthaceæ, a family closely related to the palms. The species that furnishes the “straw” for Panama hats is Corludovica palomata R. and P. The making of Panama hats is a very important industry in Ecuador, and neighboring parts of Peru and Colombia.


Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - oil palm.jpg Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - date palm and cabbage palm.jpg
Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - Livistona subglobosa - Euterpe oleracæa - Mauritia flexuosa.jpg Americana 1920 Tropical Forest Products - Indian fan palm.jpg
Oil palm (Elæis guineensis)
a. Date Palm (Phœnix dactylifera). b. Cabbage Palm (Oreodoxa oleracea)
a. Livistona subglobosa. b. Euterpe oleracæa. c. Mauritia flexuosa
Indian Fan Palm (Corypha elata)

XIII. Rubber, Guttapercha, Chicle. — The trees and other plants that produce the rubber of commerce are found in many parts of the tropical world. The principal one of these is Hevea braziliensis Muell. Arg. (Euphorbiaceæ), a tall tree, native of the vast Amazon region. Formerly most of the rubber of commerce was collected from this region. While the supply from the Amazon valley has not decreased, the increasing demand for rubber has been met by the extensive rubber plantation of the Malay Peninsula and nei^boring regions, principally Ceylon, Sumatra, Burma and Borneo. The eastern tropics now produces fully 80 per cent of the world's supply of crude rubber. The commercial name of rubber from Hevea braziliensis and certain other species is Pará rubber. It has the local name of seringa. Ceara rubber (Manihot glaziovii Müll. Arg. and other species) locally known as Maniçoba, belongs to the same family as the Pará rubber. It comes from the dry regions of northeastern Brazil and is cultivated to some extent in other parts of the tropics. Next to Pará rubber in importance is the so-called Castilloa rubber, the product of Castilla elastica Cerv. and other species of this genus and belongs to the family Moraceæ. It is a native of tropical America from southern Mexico to the Amazon region. In Brazil it is known as caucho in distinction from the seringa (Pará rubber). This rubber tree has been cultivated extensively.

The Mangabeira rubber, mainly the product of Hancornia speciosa Gom. belongs to the family Apocynaceæ. It is found throughout the region from the territory of Acre, Brazil, to southern Paraná, Brazil, and in adjoining regions of other countries. It is cultivated to some extent but as yet the cultivated rubber is not commercially important. To this family also belong the African wild rubbers, principally species of the genera Landolphia and Kickxia.

Gutta percha is not a rubber, for it is plastic rather than elastic. It comes from trees that belong to the family Sapotaceæ, mostly certain species of the genera Payena ahd Palaquium that are found only in the Indo-Malay region. In the western tropics balata, mostly the product of Mimusops balata Gærtner, is the nearest to gutta percha. If comes mamly from the Guianas and Venezuela.

Chicle is the source of the chewing gum of commerce. It is the gum of a tree known under common names of sapodilla or nispero and other local names. This is Achras zapota L. The chicle of commerce comes mostly from Southern Mexico where the tree is native. It is planted, however, in other tropical countries.

Blbliography.— Boulger, G. S., ‘Wood: a Manual of the Natural Histories and Industrial Applications of the Timbers of Commerce’ (2d ed., London 1908); Gamble, J. S., ‘A Manual of Indian Timbers’ (London 1902); Foxworthy, F. W., ‘Indo-Malayan Woods’ (The Philippine Journal of Science, C. Botany, pages 409-592, Vol. IV, Manila 1909); Whitford, H. N., ‘The Forests of the Philippines’ (Bull. No. 10, Bureau of Forestry, Manila, P. I., 1911); Navarro de Aadrade, Edmondo and Vecchi, Octavio, ‘Les Bois Indigènes de São Paulo’ (São Paulo, Brazil 1916); Pereira, H., ‘The Timber Trees of the State of São Paulo Brazil’ (São Paulo, Brazil); Huber, H., ‘Mattas e Madeiras Amazonicas’ (pages 91-216, Vol. VI, Boletim do Museu Goeldi 1910, Pará, Brazil).

H. N. Whitford,
Yale School of Forestry.