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3 Types of Tigerwood

Photo collage of different types of tigerwood.

Tigerwood, also known as South American Zebrawood, is a tropical hardwood tree that has largely originated from the East Coast of Brazil. The unique name ‘Tigerwood’ is stemmed from its beautifully contrasting grain pattern coupled with the bold stripes that almost look like that of a tiger’s.

Some other common names include Brazilian cherry wood (because of the growing region and deep color), Brazilian teak (because of the incredible durability), jatoba (the native common name), or Brazilian tiger wood.

Tigerwood is a highly exotic and unusual wood species that is gained most of its popularity for its beautiful grain. It has dark vein stripes on a deep orange-reddish background that gives it a very dramatic look.

Throughout this article will we go over the physical characteristics of both the tree and the wood that it provides, along with some uses and care. Tigerwood decking is a very popular application, or if you’re looking for an exotic hardwood for your hardwood floor, this could be your next option!

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Tigerwood is an incredible natural wood filled with natural oil that makes it a pristine option both for fine furniture, wood flooring, or for outdoor hardwood decking because of its water resistance.

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Introducing Tigerwood – The Most Exotic Hardwood

This wood species is also known by several other names, including: African walnut, Brazilian Koa, zorrowood, Congowood, and bototo, to name a few. Tigerwood generally consists of a very moderate, tan brown color with a mixture of red and orange undertones.

Like most other wood species, this warm, light color of tigerwood also darkens over time, transforming into a stunning, deep reddish-brown color. The unique tiger-like striping with rich, dark color tones makes this hardwood completely stand out from the rest.

Tigerwood species are undoubtedly a truly remarkable hardwood species, making it an ideal type of wood for furniture and flooring. It is an excellent choice for interior applications, given how its natural color variations prevent the need to stain this wood.

It is not only one of the most stable, durable and dense hardwoods, but also has a natural luster. This means that the way this wood is sawn results in a metallic and an oily appearance which is considered to be one of its most appealing features.

Interestingly, Tigerwood wasn’t too popular until the 1900s when it was introduced to the United States and started to become in high demand. Initially, it was just used for making instruments like pipe organs and violins. Soon after that, as its amazing qualities and features started being noticeable, it began to be popularly used for a great number of outdoor applications decking, outdoor boats and also furniture.

Properties of Tigerwood

Tigerwood texture

  • Scientific Name: Astronium spp. (A. graveolens and A. fraxinifolium)
  • Distribution: From Mexico southward to Brazil
  • Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter
  • Average Dried Weight: 57 lbs/ft3 (905 kg/m3)
  • Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .80, .91
  • Janka Hardness: 2,170 lbf (9,640 N)

Almost all wood species are ranked according to the Janka Hardness Scale which is simply a measure of how resistant a piece of wood is to denting and wear. Tigerwood is one of the densest types of woods that go up to 2,160 on the Janka scale!

However, the rank also hugely depends and varies according to the region where the wood is grown; for instance, it is 67 percent harder than the red oak wood, which stands at 1210 on the hardness scale.

The Brazilian hardwood version of tigerwood has a specific gravity which makes it extremely naturally resistant to decay and rot. Since tigerwood doesn’t attract fungus or any type of mold; this makes it a super-popular choice with households for exterior use, flooring, furniture, and veneers.

As a solid hardwood, tigerwood has been reported to be able to withstand wear and tear mainly due to its air-drying properties. It air-dries really well even with a minor amount of checking or warping. This further helps it to resist shrinkage and contraction once it has dried properly.

The immense durability of this exotic species is has made it one of the most popular choices for flooring products since it resists denting and twisting really well.

Moisture Content in Tigerwood

MC, an acronym for “Moisture Content”,  is a very important measure for any wood species. The overall MC of a wood type determines how long-lasting or durable the particular wood is. Since wood is hygroscopic, it means that it does absorb water in different ways. The moisture content is one of the key factors for protecting the longevity of any wood product.

Tigerwood is usually dried to a lower measure of Moisture Content, often just for flooring applications. However, in any case, it is essential to let the wood reach a natural, gradual balance on its own that is well-aligned with the temperature and the relative humidity of the environment in which the wood is being used and installed.

Once the wood reaches this balance, the term used for it is “equilibrium moisture content” or EMC, which is a key indicator of moisture levels in the wood. Since tigerwood is a great exotic hardwood type that is used to growing in different natural environments, its EMC is vital to prevent any moisture-problems in tigerwood products.

As an engineered wood, it is important to know the EMC for your wood type, especially if you are looking to use it for wood floor, for a tigerwood deck, or for fine furniture. Luckily, exotic species usually have a higher EMC than domestic species.

Working with Tigerwood

Stock of Tigerwood

Hand Tools

In terms of working properties, tigerwood is a really tough type of wood to work with, because the wood itself is so tough and durable! It is even more challenging with this wood when you are using hand tools.

Using hand tools can result in moderate to severe blunting effects on the cutters which are due to the fact that it consists of an irregular grain coupled with soft and hard layers which particularly requires reduced angle cutting.

Power Tools

Compared to other wood species, cutting edges of tigerwood may result in a quicker wear-down, so it is often recommended to use carbide tips or bits for power tools. Another aspect to keep in mind with tigerwood is that it requires pre-drilling before nailing or screwing any tigerwood material

Doing this is vital if you wish to preserve the wood’s properties and in doing so, you will also make your investment in this exotic wood species worth all your money. On a more positive side though, tigerwood glues really easily and well gives off a really high natural polish finish.

Despite how tricky working with tigerwood can be, most people prefer using it in their hones primarily because it weathers well naturally and can also be sealed for extended durability. The more sunlight this wood receives, the darker it gets in terms of color which results in a highly accentuated and distinctive grain pattern, providing it with increased luster and a gorgeous shine.

3 Types of Tigerwood Species

Closeup of Tigerwood texture

Lovoa Trichilioides

This is one of the most common tigerwood tree species that belongs to the meliaceae family. It is an evergreen large tree with a very heavy and a dark-colored crown. This species can grow up to an average height of 45 meters.

Growing Region

Lovoa trichilioides is commonly found in numerous regions of the world including Angola, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Ghana. The exploitation rates of this Tigerwood species are really high and in Congo especially, this is one of the two principal sources of exceptional quality timber.

Wood Features

This is a heartwood species that sports a yellowish-brown color and often consists of a combination of black and golden markings. One of its key distinguishing features is 3-7 m wide band of pale grey or pale brown sapwood. It has a moderately fine texture and which grains that are usually interlocked. This wood species is considered to be extremely lustrous with a highly attractive appearance.


It is one of the most highly valued types of wood for high-class furnitures like plywood, decorative veneer, flooring, cabinet work, stairways, paneling, and carpentry. It is also well known for exotic hardwood floors and for sold hardwood decking material.

Goncalo AlvesDark Brown Wood with Black Stripes

Growing Region

This is another hardwood from the Tigerwood species that have originated from tropical South America, particularly from areas including Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. The color of Goncalo

Wood Features

Alves ranges from light golden brown reddish brown, often with dark and brown streaks. It has a richly mottled appearance which is why it is often compared with rosewood. This wood is best described by most people as a hard, heavy type of wood that has tight and irregular interlocked grains, a medium to fine texture and alternate layers of hard and soft wood. This makes it a highly durable type of wood that gives a beautiful glass-like finish, making it a popular choice among many homeowners.

Wood Application

Just like tigerwood in general, this species is also hard to work with and might often result in moderate or severe blunting effects on the tools used for it. Although it glues really well and gives a nice finish once prepared, it does require pre-drilling before the process of nailing and twisting.

Furniture and wood experts recommend that the wood surface of this wood should be treated with a solvent before the process of gluing. This makes the entire process of working with this wood really easy and also allows the wood to produce an end product with a high natural polish.

Astronium FraxinifoliumStriped Wooden Block

This is a highly esteemed timber, a type of Tigerwood that is popularly used to make furniture and is often featured in cabinet work.

Growing Region

It is native to the Atlantic Forest as well as the Amazon Rainforest and is also referred to as ‘zebrawood’ and ‘Kingwood’.

Wood Features

It is a heavy, compact, and hard to cut type of wood that is also often mechanically resistant. It varies in color and ranges from dark to light red. It starts off with yellow-brown and sometimes yellowish brown, after which adopts a deep, dark brownish black color, coupled with black-brown veins that are irregularly spaced. The best part about this wood is that it is highly durable and resistant to fungi, termites, and dry wood borers.


This is a highly esteemed timber, a type of tigerwood that is popularly used to make furniture and is often featured in cabinet work. Like other tigerwood species, this also has a wide range of applications and is used to make top quality furniture, flooring, heavy carpentry, exterior joinery, and carving.

Pros & Cons of Tigerwood Flooring 

Tigerwood Flooring

Given how popular tigerwood is among all other types of wood, it goes to show that it must have some exceptional qualities that make it such a highly sought-after for exotic hardwood floors.

Tigerwood hardwood flooring is easily one of the most trendy, admired and exotic floorings in most parts of the world, particularly in North America. It is not just aesthetically pleasing but has also some prominent benefits that make people choose Tigerwood for flooring in their houses. However, it also comes with its fair share of downsides that you must consider before making a decision.


Attractive Appearance

One of the biggest reasons why tigerwood is so popular, is for flooring purposes and furniture making. This is because it has a strikingly appealing appearance that is both unique and exotic looking.

The color range it produces is absolutely fantastic, which is often a mixture of light golden brown to deep reddish brown,  with amazing black stripes like that of a tiger. What makes it even more amazing that there are no other hardwood species that gives a similar appearance in furniture and flooring as tigerwood does.

Durability and Hardness

The second most outstanding feature of tigerwood is its ultimate durability and longevity. It is an extremely stable type of wood that comes with a long life expectancy in terms of usage and performance.

When used for wood flooring, tigerwood has a very hard surface and this hardness helps protect the smooth surface of the wooden flooring from wear, tear, and dent of daily use. Furthermore, tigerwood also promises great resistance against moth, decay and fungi which significantly extends its lifespan and durability.


Color Darkening

Although tigerwood sports a beautiful brownish-black color, it has been reported to turn even darker with the passage of time. This happens a lot when the wood is exposed to sunlight too much.

It starts off with stunning light brown and gold colors and will eventually transform into a deep, dark red-black color. However, this isn’t much of a big downside because the color-changing process easily takes up to ten years or more so it is likely that people don’t even notice the color variation over that long a time period.

Possible Allergenic

This is probably one of the biggest downsides of working with tigerwood that its powder causes allergic reactions and irritation to the skin and eyes. This is why you can’t turn it into a DIY (Do It Yourself) project as it can bring about unpleasant reactions in the body. The best way to go about this is by hiring a professional team with experts who can cater to your flooring and sanding needs.


Can tiger wood floors be refinished?

Solid tiger wood panels and flooring can be sanded, stained, painted, and refinished many many times throughout their lifetime. It is a very durable and resilient wood that can withstand much traffic. The refinishing will help maintain the luster and appeal of the wood without wearing it down to the point of weakness.

Is jatoba the same as Santos Mahogany wood?

Santos Mahogany and jatoba wood is similar in appearance and overall durability and hardness, though they are different types of tropical hardwood tree species that come from different regions. They are both high in quality and they are both a little bit more on the pricey side.

Is Brazilian tiger wood similar to ipe wood?

Brazilian tiger wood is actually 40% less hard than ipe wood, though tiger wood tends to be a little more on the attractive side. Still, tigerwood is far more durable than most domestic species, and whether you choose ipe decking or tigerwood decking, you are likely to be a happy customer.

Can tiger wood be stained?

Some people believe that because tigerwood is so naturally high in oil content and low in pores, that is does not need to be stained in order to maintain its lovely appearance and durability. However, though it will stay lovely if it is not stained, it will absolutely benefit from a clear stain.

It has such an attractive pattern and natural luster that it would be worth it to use a clear stain so as to not take away from its natural look.

How do you maintain a tigerwood deck?

The absolute best way to maintain your tigerwood deck is by keeping it clean. Once it has a nice stain on it, all that needs to be done is keeping it clear of dust and debris. This can be achieved by hosing it down every once in a while.

Can you sand tigerwood?

Tigerwood can be sanded just the same as any other type of wood, though it is important to use proper protective equipment. The small wood dust can be very irritating to skin, eyes, and lungs, so ensure that you wear a face mask and goggles if you are doing your own tigerwood maintenance.

Does tigerwood make for good firewood?

Though tigerwood would burn well as fuelwood, as it would burn at a high temperature and for a long time, it would be an incredible shame to waste the high quality wood as fuelwood. It is far too beautiful and durable to be burned away. There are other types of wood that make for a more appropriate firewood.

How should you clean tigerwood floors?

Exotic hardwoods should be cleaned in a different way from most other woods. It does not react well to harsh cleaners and chemicals, so just use a very mild soap and warm water to wash it with a mop. Otherwise, simply vacuum or sweep it to keep it clean!

Where does tiger wood come from?

Lovoa trichilioides is commonly found in numerous regions of the world including Angola, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Ghana. The exploitation rates of this Tigerwood species are really high and in Congo especially, this is one of the two principal sources of exceptional quality timber.

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