Tropical wood species: what you should know

It is not always clear which types of wood actually count as tropical wood. How to define tropical wood species, what properties many of these woods have, and what else you should know about tropical woods, is covered in detail in this article.

Defintion of tropical woods

The term tropical wood is not derived from certain properties of the wood, but is primarily based on the original origin of the wood. Tropical woods are therefore all woods that come from tropical climates.

Different properties

Due to the environmental conditions, however, many tropical woods have quite similar structure and comparable properties. However, this is not true for all species, also there are also within a particular genus usually lighter and heavier qualities. Because of their different structure, they can already differ in their basic characteristics:

  • hardness
  • strength
  • natural durability (high durable are usually only the heavier woods)
  • Resistance to fungal and insect attack (not all tropical woods are automatically resistant)
  • Longevity and stability (heavier wood species are also often superior here)

Many tropical tree species hardly form branches, so tropical wood is often "knot-thin". This raises the quality of the wood, even compared to domestic wood. The high resistance to pests and fungi in many tropical woods (but not all) stems from the comparatively much larger pest threat in the tropics, to which the tropical trees have adapted in millions of years.

Problem tropical wood use

Tropical wood is used extensively worldwide. The reasons are many:

  • good wood properties and good durability at a low price
  • In many countries of the world only "harvesting" of the wood necessary, no reforestation or elaborate cultivation
  • typically very low wage costs and low worker protection, therefore lucrative profit opportunities for entrepreneurs
  • Timber industry often an important economic resource for poor countries (often only unthinkable resources are simply exploited)

Each year around 13 million hectares of rainforest disappear. This represents a major threat to the entire global climate, as studies clearly demonstrate. In addition comes a high CO? Burden on the transport of a raw material, which is also available in sufficient quantities locally, and therefore would not have to be transported halfway around the world.

FSC certification

To promote sustainable forestry in tropical countries and stop rainforest exploitation, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has been set up, with many non-profit and environmental organizations making significant contributions. The aim is to promote a sustainable timber industry worldwide and to signal to the consumer via the FSC seal that the wood they have purchased actually comes from sustainable management, and not from illegal impacts. More information about the FSC and the seal can be found here:

Replacement of tropical woods with local wood

Tropical wood species have no "special" properties. Each tropical wood can easily be replaced by a native wood with similar characteristics. Only some woods, such as Bongossi or Azobe are significantly heavier and harder than native wood species - but this hardness is not necessary in most applications. In order not to deprive producing countries of a valuable source of revenue, sustainable, verified and accountable forestry seems likely to be the best way forward.


Many tropical woods are characterized by very high resistance and durability, and are also highly resistant to pests and fungi. But there are also quite domestic alternatives: Robinia wood, for example, is also in durability class 1-2 and is thus a useful substitute for tropical woods.

Examples of tropical wood species

Some of the tropical wood species commonly used by us include:

  • Bankirai,
  • the ecologically questionable Meranti
  • Bongossi
  • teak
  • Merbau
  • Abachi
  • Wenge

An overview of the most important tropical species in the trade can be found in our review article: Overview of all types of wood. All tropical woods are marked accordingly tropical there, besides also always the respective provenance area is indicated.

Tips & Tricks

A list of which tropical wood species with special characteristics can be replaced well by which domestic woods, can be found here: //

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