Veneer species

Construction and furniture

Glazzywood, Astronium graveolens, Goncalo alves


Family: Anacardiaceae

Native to: Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Bolivia

Habitat: A canopy tree found in both dry and humid tropical forests at elevations up to 1,000 meters. A common element of upland forests. 

Ecological value: Attracts pollinators such as insects. Moderately fast growing.

Material uses: The wood is moderately hard, heavy, fairly loose in structure, durable and takes an excellent polish.. Among the most outstanding heavy, durable construction timbers, it is also highly favored as a fine furniture and cabinet wood. It is cut for decorative veneers and is also used for specialty items such as knife handles, brush backs, archery bows, billiard cue butts, turnery, and carving.

Other:  The tree yields a valuable timber and is commonly exploited from the wild. The wood is exported to many countries. Pioneer species, tolerant of shade, also used for ornamental purposes. 

Research: Jiahuan Cheng/Christine Facella



2. Clement, C. R. (1988). Domestication of the pejibaye palm (Bactris gasipaes): past and present. Advances in economic botany, 6, 155-174.

3, 4. Crane, J. H. Pejibaye (Peach Palm) Growing in the Florida Home Landscape. HS1072. Florida Cooperative Extension Service. University of Florida IFAS. 2006.

Image Credit/Source:  David J. Stang,

Red ceiba, Bombacopsis quinata

Family: Malvaceae

Native to: Central America, and Northern South America

Habitat: Lowland wet forests, dry to very dry, or wet tropical forests, from sea level to 900 m.

Ecological value: Sometimes used as shade coverage on coffee plantations. Fast growing, pollinated by bats.

Material uses: Exploited in the wild as a timber source. Durable wood used for construction, furniture, doors, suitable for plywood and veneer. Coppices well, used as a live fence, occasionally used as fuelwood, but not preferred. 

Medicinal value: Roots are used as treatment for diarrhea.

Other:  This species is possibly incorrectly name and could potentially be transferred to the genus Pachira. Grows well in humus rich loamy soil. Listed as vulnerable due to over exploitation and habitat loss. 

Research: Peaches Harrison/Christine Facella



Image Credit/Source: Wendy Cutler,

Chrysophyllum cainito

Family: Sapotaceae

Native to: naturalized in Central American lowlands, naturalized in the Central American lowlands.

Habitat: Tropical woods at medium and low elevation up to 400m above sealevel. 

Ecological value: Caimito grows successfully on almost all types of soil and in a range of climates. Medium growth rate and drought tolerant when established. Fruit consumed by mammals such as the Kinkajau.

Material uses: The reddish-brown wood is suitable for construction purposes, wood veneers and cabinetry. The mature branches are used as a medium to grow orchids.

Also good quality paper made from pulp and tannins from bark. Good fuelwood. 

Edible: Fruit eaten raw or as preserves. Seed kernal made into nougat.

Medicinal value: Leaf infusions are used as infusions to treat diabetes and articular rheumatism. The fruit also has antioxidant properties.

Other: The tree is hermaphroditic (self-fertile), and produces a strong odor.

Also cultivated as ornamental.

Spanish elm, Cordia alliodora​

Family: Boraginaceae

Native to: South and Central America, Caribbean

Habitat: Both wet and dry forests, up to 1000m and as high as 2000m. 

Ecological value: Pioneer species, attracts pollinators (lepidoptera, bees), tolerant of high winds. Fast growing. Coppices well. 

Material uses: A renowned timber-producing species. The wood is usually straight grained, easy to work to a smooth finish, with little dulling of cutting edges. The wood is used for building construction, flooring, furniture and veneer manufacture, boat timbers, oars, rail sleepers, turnery, scientific equipment, and a wide variety of carvings and artists’ equipment. The wood is resistant to decay; it has some resistance to marine borers and is outstandingly resistant to termite attack. Perfume from oil from flowers. Fire wood.

Edible: Fruits are edible, not tasty.

Medicinal value: A decoction of the leaves is used as a tonic and a stimulant, especially in cases of catarrh and lung infection. Pulverized seeds are used in the treatment of cutaneous diseases.

Other: Good tree for combining with crops as a shade tree. It has been incorporated with pasture, often in mixture with woody species of Erythrina. It has also been grown with sugarcane. When grown as a shade tree, it has shown to reduce yield in crops, but income generated from timber compensates for this yield reduction.

Propeller tree, Gyrocarpus americanus

Family: Hernandiaceae

Native to:  Central and South America, tropical Africa, tropical Asia

Habitat: Deciduous tree grown in dry and hot lowland forests, and secondary grassland.

Material uses: The bole is used for canoes. The seeds are used for jewelry purposes. The wood is soft and light. It is used for toys, light furniture, insulation, crates, veneer, pulpwood, plywood, and firewood.

Edible: Drink made out of the bark.

Medicinal: The bark is used to treat swelling after childbirth, stomach aches, and filariasis.   The decoction of the root is used to wash wounds and the powder is used to cover wounds.

Other: Sap may cause blindness.

Research: Senna Lau / Alex Anez Folla/Christine Facella


1. Prota. N/A. Gyrocarpus americanus Jacq. Bell. L. A. 1981. Plant Fibers for Papermaking. Liliaceae Press (accessed on 5 October 2017). 

2. Fern, Ken. 2014. Gyrocarpus americanus. (accessed on 5 October 2017). 

3. Gillespe, Thomas. N/A. Dry Forest Trees, Shrubs, and Lianas of Fiji. (accessed on 5 October 2017).

4. Lim, T.K. 2014. Edible Medicinal and Non Medicinal Plants. New York: Springer. pg.14

Image Credit/Source: Lee Parmenter,

Sandbox tree,  Hura crepitans

Family:  Euphorbiaceae

Native to:  Tropics in North and South America

Habitat: Rainforests and moist coastal forests, often exposed to seasonal inundation. lowland climates.

Ecological value: Established plants are tolerant of drought. Fast growth rate: 4m in two years. Macaws eat the toxic fruit, then swallow a particular type of clay found along riverbanks, that neutralizes the toxins.

Material uses: Fishermen use the sap to poison fish. Shells of unripe fruit used to make containers. Yellow- brown wood, medium soft and light weight, susceptible to damage from termites. Used in general carpentry, furniture, in veneers. Used traditionally in making canoes.

Medicinal value: Used to treat leprosy.

Other: Also known as the Dynamite tree, named for the explosive sound of the ripe fruit as it breaks apart. Susceptible to wind damage. Tree is recognized by pointy spines. Grown as a shade tree in cocoa plantations. Supports cultivation of vanilla plants.

Research: Mengmeng Chen/Christine Facella


1."The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species".

2."Hura crepitans". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 24 December 2017.


4. Attenborogh, The Private life of plants.

Image Credit/Source: Hans Hillewaert,

Bully tree, Hyeronima alchorneoides


Family: Euphorbiaceae

Native to: Northern South America, Mexico, and Central America

Habitat: Moist or wet forest, seasonal marshes. Up to 900 meters above sea level.

Ecological value: This tree grows well in poor, acidic and waterlogged soils. This makes the tree good for re-vegetation of degraded lands. Additionally, the tree grows very fast (5m in 3 years) making it good for cultivation for construction and medicinal uses. Pollinated by insects. Fruit eaten by monkeys and birds.

Material uses: The bark is a good source of tannins for natural dyes producing a very dark reddish brown color. The tree's wood is predominantly used however, it's almost exclusively used for making boats but suitable for all wood products. Highly durable, also used in veneers, cabinetry, and flooring.

Medicinal value: The bark had properties that is used as a cough supressant and the seeds have oils that are used for intestinal parasites making this tree very useful.

Other: This tree has the capabilities of self pruning because the upper canopy provides shade enough for the lower branches. However it's roots are very fragile. This tree is considered an evergreen and con not pollinate for itself, but relies on insects. It typically flowers and fruits twice a year.

Research: Aria Shehas/Christine Facella


1. Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. 2018-09-18. <>

Image Credit/Source: Tarciso Leão,

Black cedar, Juglans olanchana

Family: Juglandaceae

Native to: Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua

Habitat: Mountains at altitudes from 400 to 1500m above sea level.  Also along the banks of rivers or streams

Ecological value: Suitable for reforestation in plantations that are monospecific or mixed. They rapidly grow and have a good form.

Material uses: Moderately heavy wood. It is a dark brown color with a straight grain. It is easy to work with by hand or machine. It allows for an excellent finish. Used for light weight construction, musical instruments, cabinet making, rifle butts, veneer, and decorative plaques. Shell is a use to extract tannin for dying leather.

Edible: Walnuts are edible

Other: Classified as endangered.

Research: Senna Lau/Christine Facella



Image Credit/Source: A. Sanchun,

Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua

Family: Hamamelidaceae

Native to: Central America, North America, southern Mexico

Habitat: Grows in rich moist soil but tolerates a variety of conditions. Grows best in a well drained habitat. Grows in bottom land sites that provide space for root development.

Ecological value: Eaten by eastern goldfinches, purple finches, sparrows, mourning doves, northern bobwhites, wild turkeys, chipmunks, and squirrels. Pollinated by bees. Fast growing pioneer and long lived. Controls erosion. 

Material uses: Used for lumber, veneer, plywood, railroad ties, fuel, and pulpwood.  Resin can be used in perfumery, soap, and as an adhesive. Wood also used locally as fuel wood.  

Edible: Chewing gum resin.

Medicinal value: The gum resin can treat rheumatic pain. When the sap is boiled and cooled it creates a balm that treats skin problems. 

Other: Used as a windbreak because of its rapid growth and tolerance. Potential to be used as a pioneer species for reforestation programs. 

Research: Senna Lau/Christine Facella


1. Gilman, Edward. 1993. Liquidambar Styraciflua Sweetgum. (accessed on 08 September 2017).

2. USDA NRCS National Plant Materials Center. N/A.  Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua L.. (accessed on 08 September 2017).

3. Gilani, Natasha. N/A. Uses for a Sweet Gum Tree. (accessed on 08 September 2017).

4. USDA NRCS National Plant Materials Center. N/A.  Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua L.. (accessed on 08 September 2017).

Image Credit/Source: Luis Fernández García,

Lysiloma divaricatum

Family: Fabaceae

Native to: Central America - Costa Rica to Mexico

Habitat: Wooded, rocky, stream banks or on dry brushy hillsides at elevations of 300 - 1,700 meters in Guatemala.

Ecological value: Biological nitrogen fixation. Drought tolerant. Species in this family are usually fast growing.

Material uses: The bark is a source of tannins. The wood is highly durable; it is considered easy to work; finishes smoothly; and takes a high natural polish. It is used in general construction, for furniture, wheel wright work, parquet, interior trim, bobbins and shuttles, veneer, and knife handles.

Medicinal value: Tannins (Detoxify material).

Other: Succeeds on a range of soil types.

Research: Jiahuan Cheng/Christine Facella


1. Fern, Ken. “Useful Tropical Plants Database 2014.” Useful Tropical Plants. Accessed September 28, 2017.

Image Credit/Source: Dick Culbert,

Avocado, Persea americana


Family: Lauraceae

Native to: Mexico, Central America, and Parts of South America

Habitat: Humid lowland forests or limestone formation up to 2,800 meters elevation. Requires a position sheltered from strong winds. Usually salt intolerant.

Ecological value: Pollinated by honeybees.

Material uses: Oil can be extracted from seed. Seed makes a red/ brown dye. Soft, not durable wood susceptible to termites. Used in light construction, furniture, good quality veneer and plywood. 

Edible: Very popular fruit around the world. Oil can be used for cooking. Leaves can be dried and used for infusions, teas, and extracts. 6-8 years to produce fruit.

Other: Wood is seldom used and is mainly grown for fruit. Ground up seed with cheese is used as a rat poison.

 Persea caerulea

Family: Laureaceae

Native to:  North and South America

Habitat: Evergreen and partly deciduous forests and pastures; at elevations from 300 - 2,000 meters.

Ecological value: Seed dispersal through birds & mammals is usual for this family.

Material uses: The heartwood is blackish; the sapwood is yellowish. The texture is medium; the grain straight to interlocked; luster is bright; there is no distinctive taste or aroma. The wood is not very durable; it is easy to work and finishes well. It is used for purposes such as construction, flooring, decorative veneer.

Other: Persea caerulea is an evergreen tree with a smallish crown; it can grow from 4 - 25 meters tall.

Research: Hyunjung Kim/Christine Facella



Image Credit/Source: O. M. Montiel,

Macawood, Platymiscium


Family:  Fabaceae 

Native to: Central and South America

Habitat: Remnant dry forest and woodlands on flat ground, including disturbed or secondary forest. Scattered in dry deciduous forest, on dry hillsides. From sea level to 900m.

Ecological value: This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria that  form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. Flowers are very attractive to bees, butterflies. Slow growing tree.

Material uses: Furniture, cabinetry, house construction, veneer, musical instruments, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

Other: Endangered, thrives in nitrogen-rich soil. Shade in coffee plantations. The species is scarce. Individual often show signs of genetic degradation. 

Poulsenia, Poulsenia armata


Family:  Moraceae

Native to: Bolivia and Brazil to Ecuador and Venezuela, north through Central America to Mexico

Habitat: Wet forests, at or a little above sea level.

Ecological value: Fruit consumed by red spider monkeys from Mexico to Bolivia. Flowers and fruits throughout the year, especially during the dry and early rainy seasons. 

Material uses: The inner bark is very thick and composed of numerous layers of strong crossed fibers which can be used in hammocks, blankets, women’s clothes. 

Edible:  Ripe fruit. 

Other: The wood itself is not very strong. It is used for general interior construction work, crates and decorative veneer. High silica content (7.32 %).

Research: Jiahuan Cheng/Christine Facella


1.Croat, Thomas B. Poulsenia armata. Accessed September 05, 2017.,e,n.

2. Standley P.C. & J. A. Steyermark. 1946-1976. Flora of Guatemala

3. Chudnoff. Martin. 1984. Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607. Wisconsin: USDA Forest Service

Image Credit/Source: Tony Rebelo,

Camibar, Prioria copaifera


Family: Fabaceae

Native to: Northern S. America - Colombia; C. America - Panama to Nicaragua; Caribbean - Trinidad.

Habitat:  Lowland plant, often found along swaps and sides of rivers up to 40 m above sea level and up to 150 m inland. 

Ecological value: Resin is collected by Euglossine bees for constructing their nests. 

Material uses: The bark can be used for making cord.  Resin can be made from the wood. The wood itself is non-durable, but can be used for interior trim, cabinet work, joinery, plywood, and veneer. 

Edible: The large seeds of the plant are edible and typically sold under the name 'cativa'. 

Medicinal value: The resin from the wood is used as medicine for cuts and bites by Native Americans. 

Other: Heavily harvested in Panama. Belongs to Fabaceae family - fixes atmospheric nitrogen.

Research: Paige Katona/Christine Facella


1. “Prioria copaifera,” Tropical Plants Database,

2.  R. Pérez; Center for Tropical Forest Science, “Close-up of the flowers,”

Image Credit/Source: Chnelsons,

Albizia guachapele / Pseudosamanea guachapele


Family: Fabaceae

Native to: Guatemala Southward to Venezuela and Ecuador

Habitat: Generally grows in dry areas, spontaneously in pastures and abandoned fields, generally 500 meters above sea level or below. Tolerant of shallow, infertile soils.

Ecological value: Fixes atmospheric nitrogen, fast growing drought tolerant. 

Material uses: The wood is easy to work. Smooth finish after sanding. Used in shipbuilding (planking, ribs, decking), railroad cross ties, general construction, flooring, decorative veneers, and furniture. Good quality timber. Golden dye obtained from heartwood.  

Other: Thrives in nitrogen-rich soil. Used as a shade tree. Can survive forest fires. 

Research: Michael Sanchez/Christine Facella



Image credit/Source:  Mateo Hernandez Schmidt.

Big leaf mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla


Family: Meliaceae

Native to: South America - Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, North through Central America to Mexico

Habitat: All forest types, from pine savanna to rain-forest, but generally in mixed hardwood forest belts, along riverbanks in deep alluvial soils

Ecological value: Slow growing, attracts insect pollinators. Pioneer species, used to recover degraded soils/land.

Material uses: Regarded as the world’s finest timber for high-class furniture and cabinet work. It is used as a shade tree for cacao, coffee and young plantations of dipterocarps. Crushed fruit as potting medium. Oil from seed kernels might have commercial value (bitter Purgative). Bark used for dyeing and tanning leather. Gum from bark. 

Edible:  Fruit processed into jellies, juice or pickle. Young leaves as vegetable.  

Medicinal value: Various medicinal uses of parts of the tree are reported from Central America. An infusion is used to treat diarrhea and fevers.

Other: The crushed fruit shells have been used as a potting medium. Can be weedy. Used in reforestation projects. When young, can be intercropped or agro-crops such as corn, bean, bananas, sweat potato, and cassava.

Golden trumpet tree, Tabebuia chrysanthia or Handroanthus chrysotrichus

Family: Bignoniaceae

Native to: Central America and Northern South America

Habitat: Clearings of deciduous tropical forests 400 to 1700m above sea level. Can grow in hard, dry and poor soils. 

Ecological value: Showy flowers, fruits during dry season - moderately drought tolerant.

Material uses: Good quality hardwood, known as Ipe. Very heavy, durable, fungi and termite resistant. Outdoor furniture, and high quality furniture/cabinetry. Veneer. 

Medicinal value: Bark against syphilis.

Other: Ornamental tree. 

Peruvian almond (Sura, Guayabon), Terminalia oblonga 

Family: Combretaceae

Native to: South and Central America

Habitat: Canopy species, floodplain. Well drained alluvial soils and coastal plains. Up to 500 meters in elevation. 

Ecological value: Fast growing pioneer species. Attracts pollinators (Bees).

Material uses:  Timber - heavy. Moderately resistant to fungi and termites. High quality furniture, cabinetry, ship building, veneers. 

Research: Christine Facella



Image Credit/Source: Reinaldo Aguilar,

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