BOTANICAL NAME: Tabebuia donnell-smithii of the family Bignoniaceae

Synonyms: Rosodendron donnell-smithii and Cybistax donnell-smithii and there seems to be some contention among botanists as to which of the three genera (Tabebuia, Rosodendron, and Cybistax) should be used for this species

COMMON NAMES: Widely known in the USA as "white mahogany", it also goes by the names chiapas, copal, cortez, cortez blanco (el salvador), duranga (mexico), durango, flor de zope, oaxaca, palo blanco (guatemala and mexico), pequia marfim, prima vera mahogany, primavera, roble, roble (usa), san juan (honduras), tabasco

TYPE: hardwood

COLOR: heartwood is a cream or light yellow-rose color, sometimes brownish, sometimes with streaks of red, orange, and brown. Sapwood not clearly demarcated and can be hard to distinguish from the heartwood.

GRAIN / TEXTURE / FILLER / FINISH / LUSTER: The wood has straight to interlocked and wavy grain. It is sometimes exhibits a ribbon figure which can alternate between light and dark due to the shifting in alignment of bands of fiber at regular intervals. The bands are also reported to dissect further into a wide variety of cross-figures, of which mottle, rain-drop and narrow fiddle-back are the most common.

The texture is uniform and medium to rather coarse. It finishes very nicely and has a fairly high luster, frequently with chatoyancy. Takes stains, varnishes, and paints very well, can be brought to a good polish

NOTE: "coarse" and "high luster" are usually not found together but it is true of this wood and I think it is because of the interlocked grain.

PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: This wood is very easy to work with both power tools and hand tools in all operations even though there may be considerable grain variation. It is fairly strong but a tad on the soft side and surfaces may dent easily. It has medium blunting effect on cutters and is reported to be fairly difficult to saw although that has not been my eperience (I have found it easy to saw). It holds nails and screws well, although there is some tendance to split, especially on thin stock, so preboring is recommended. It glues without difficulty, carves, turns, and sands well, bores reasonably well, is moderate in characteristics for motising, routing, moulding, and planing although a reduced cutting angle is recommended when planing quartersawn material containing irregular or interlocked grain.

Produces a good quality veneer, and with its wavy appearance and occasional figure, prima vera is a well-known veneer wood.

DURABILITY: The heartwood is reported as resistant preservative treatment; reports on the sapwood range from poor to good in response to preservative treatments. Reports on durability range from poor to good, with some reports saying that heartwood has very low natural resistance to decay and is susceptible to attack by common furniture beetle and pinhole borer. There is general agreement that it weathers well.

STABILITY: movement in service is small, similar to genuine mahogany

BENDING: one report says it is good for steam bending, most others don't comment on its ability, just that it is seldom used for steam bending applications, implying that it bends poorly.

ODOR / TASTE: no specific smell or taste

SOURCES: Most abundant in coastal areas of Southwestern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, it also grows in Honduras.

trees are reported to thrive on moist, rich soils, but have also adapted to dry areas.

USES: boxes and crates, building materials, cabinet work, cabinetmaking, cabinetry, cabinets, chairs, chests, decorative veneer, desks, dining-room furniture, drawer sides, electric-guitar bodies, figured veneer, fine furniture, flooring, furniture, heavy construction, interior construction, interior trim, interior trim., joinery, kitchen cabinets, light construction, living-room suites, millwork, moldings, office furniture, paneling, panelling, trimming, turning, veneer, wainscotting, wardrobes

TREE: heights of 75 to 100 feet, and diameters of 2 to 3 feet with straight and clear trunks as high as 30 or 40 feet

WEIGHT: 23 to 37 lbs/ft3, generally on the lower end of that range

DRYING: Reported to dry easily, albeit slowly, with little or no degrade and what little there is is in the form of slight warping or checking.

radial 3%
tangential 5%
volumetric 9%

AVAILABILITY: Supplies are scarce in the veneer form, but are somewhat available in lumber form in the United States.

COST: Prima vera is generally sold in thicknesses from 4/4 to 12/4. Prices for 4/4 prima vera range from $5/bf to $7/bf, with turning stock slightly higher.

TOXICITY: no reports

HOBBIT NOTE: I have not seen it mentioned in any reports, but based on the planks I've obtained, I note that there is a frequent tendancy for the wood to have what appears to be a dark fungal stain, possibly blue stain. I have not observed this in veneer.

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Itís like a light-colored mahogany.

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Plantation trees are reported to mature to marketable sizes in 20 to 35 years.