What Are the Different Types of Exotic Lumber?

Paul Scott

Exotic lumber is a somewhat difficult term to define as lumber native to one global region may be considered to be exotic in another, making the definition location specific. Other than the natural occurrence of lumber species in any given location, there are no other specific characteristic traits that apply to exotic lumber. In many Western countries, such as the United States, these include South American woods such as Mexican Bocote, Bolivian Rosewood, and Argentinian Lignum. Asian exotic timbers include Burmese Rosewood, Beeswing Narra, and Macassar Ebony. A few of the African exotics are South African Tabootie, Quilted Sapele from the Cameroon, and genuine Sandlewood from Tanzania.

Africa produces several exotic lumber varieties, including South Africa's fragrant and tough Tambootie.
Africa produces several exotic lumber varieties, including South Africa's fragrant and tough Tambootie.

The term "exotic lumber" is generally used to describe timber acquired from non-native sources rather than one or other specific characteristic of the wood. In fact, in many cases, exotic lumber may be grown in, but not be native to, a specific country and still classify as such. This is not to say that some of the timber species mentioned do not grow in the region, rather that they are not native species.

Sandalwood is an exotic lumber tree native to Tanzania.
Sandalwood is an exotic lumber tree native to Tanzania.

Several exotic lumber types hail from North America's southern neighbors. Mexico is home to timber species such as Bocote and the multi-colored Ziricote, while Lignum Vitae is found in Central America. Lumber species such as Osage Orange and Lignum come from Argentina, and Bloodwood, Brazilian Tulipwood, and the beautifully-figured Brazilian Kingwood hail from Brazil. Other South American exotic timber types include Peroba Rosa from Paraguay and Bolivian Rosewood from Bolivia.

The far east is home to several fine exotic lumber species including Cochinchin burl from Thailand, Burma Blackwood from Southeast Asia, and Borneo Rosewood from Suriname. Laos is a prolific Asian producer of exotic woods with Black and White Ebony, Amboyna, and both burl and figured Afzelia originating in the area. Beeswing Narra is another of the strikingly-figured Southeast Asian timber species, as is Black Palm wood. India is also a strong source of exotic woods such as East Indian Rosewood and Indian Ironwood.

The African region also produces several noteworthy exotic lumber varieties including South Africa's fragrant and tough Tambootie, Zebrawood from West Africa, and Striped Ebony found across large areas of the continent. Leadwood, Quilted Sapele, and genuine Sandlewood are also central African species. South Africa is also the home of both plain grain and figured Pink Ivory, as well as Mopane and Wild Olive. The Cameroon and Morocco are home to exotic timbers such as Bubinga and Thuya Burl, both of which have unique grain formations. Other regions, such as Europe, the Middle East, and Australia, also produce striking lumber types, which are considered exotic in other parts of the world.

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