Latin name: Tabebuia spp principally, Tabebuia serratifolia
Also known as: Ipe
Density (mean, Kg/m³):
1040 (Varies from 960 to 1200)
Fine to medium
Limited availability at specialist timber merchant
The yellowish powder (lapachol compound) in the vessels has the appearance of sulphur but turns deep red in alkaline solutions, reported to produce respiratory and dermatitic effects
Flooring, Decking, Mouldings, Furniture, Tool handles, Joinery - Exterior
Medium brown (Olive brown)
Ipé is a member of the lapacho group of the genus Tabebuia. The timbers in this group are noted for their great strength and durability and are characterized by the presence of a yellowish powder (lapachol compound) in the vessels.
Tabebuia serratifolia is not listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species but many other species of Tabebuia are listed. Believed available from certified sources.
The tree is found in Trinidad, Grenada, and St Vincent of the Lesser Antilles, and on the continent from Mexico through Central America and into South America to southern Brazil, including Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam.
T. serratifolia is a canopy tree, unbuttressed or with low buttresses, about 37.0m high and a diameter of about 1.0m, although in some parts of its range diameters of about 2.0m are found. Clear cylindrical boles 15.0m to 18.0m are common.
The heartwood is yellowish green when first cut, turning a light to dark olive-brown with lighter or darker streaks. The sapwood is distinct, greyish-white in colour, and 38mm to 88mm wide. The texture is fine; the grain is straight to occasionally irregular, and the lustre is low to medium. Pores in the heartwood, which appear as fine yellow dots, are filled with a yellowish powder (lapachol), and appear on longitudinal surfaces as yellow lines. The wood is cold to the touch and often appears oily; very fine ripple marks are usually present.
Despite its relatively high density, ipé is a fairly easy wood to dry. It dries rapidly with slight warping, cupping, twisting, end and surface checking occurring. A slow drying kiln schedule is recommended.
The wood is hard, tough and strong, and compares favourably with greenheart.
Difficult - Ipé is moderately difficult to work especially with hand tools, and has a blunting effect on cutting edges. A good finish is usually obtained when planing or moulding plain-sawn material, but a cutting angle of at least 15° is recommended to eliminate chipping of quarter-sawn stock. The timber stains and polishes well and requires little grain-filler, but pre-boring is required before nailing to prevent splitting and bending of nails.