Blue Mahoe is the national tree of Jamaica, and is widely distributed throughout the Caribbean. Due to it’s past over-exploitation, and seldom export, it is not a common species in the US hardwood market. When available, it is highly desired. The heartwood displays beautiful blue and gray tones, with a pale yellow sapwood. The Wood Database states that it may be the only commercially available wood that can exhibit a bluish hue. It has been compared to beetle-kill pine in it’s coloring. The wood is often used for furniture and cabinetry in Caribbean markets.
Common Name(s): Blue Mahoe
Scientific Name: Talipariti elatum (syn. Hibiscus elatus)
Distribution: Native to Cuba and Jamaica; widely planted throughout the Caribbean
Tree Size: 60-70 ft (18-21 m) tall, 1-2 ft (.3-.6 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 47 lbs/ft3 (755 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .62, .75
Janka Hardness: 1,420 lbf (6,320 N)
Modulus of Rupture: No data available
Elastic Modulus: No data available
Crushing Strength: No data available
Shrinkage: Radial: 2.1%, Tangential: 4.9%, Volumetric: 7.1%, T/R Ratio: 2.3
Color/Appearance: Heartwood can be highly varied in color, usually grayish or olive brown colored, sometimes with streaks of green, blue, or purple. The narrow sapwood is pale yellow and is clearly demarcated from heartwood. Blue Mahoe is one of very few woods with an overall gray heartwood appearance (in its fresh and unweathered state), and perhaps the only commercially available wood that can exhibit a bluish hue.
Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight or shallowly interlocked, with a uniform fine to medium texture and a low natural luster.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to large pores in no specific arrangement (few to moderately numerous); solitary and radial multiples or clusters of 2-4; growth rings indistinct; rays not visible without lens; parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates, vasicentric.
Rot Resistance: Reports range from moderately durable to very durable regarding decay resistance. Also reported to be resistant to insect attacks.
Workability: Overall easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Turns, glues, and finishes well.
Odor: Blue Mahoe has a characteristic odor when being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Blue Mahoe has been reported to cause sneezing.
Pricing/Availability: Past over-exploitation has led to very scarce availability of this lumber. Currently, Blue Mahoe is very seldom exported out of its natural range, and wood is typically only available in very small pieces. Expect prices to be high for an imported hardwood.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Cabinetry, furniture, turned objects, carvings, musical instruments, inlay, marquetry, and interior trim.
Comments: Blue Mahoe is the national tree of Jamaica, where it’s prized as a quality furniture wood. Unfortunately, this wood is now in very low supply, and is only infrequently seen (in very small sizes and quantities). It’s perhaps one of the only commercial hardwoods in the world that comes close to possessing a blue heartwood color.