South American Exotic Woods

Top Exotic Hardwoods Imported from South America

Genuine Mahogany loggingAt J. Gibson McIlvain, we’re direct importers of exotic hardwoods from across the globe. Many of our most popular species hail from South America, where our specially trained experts visit each lumber mill in person before we begin relationships with them. During their on-site visits, our staff conducts careful observations, ensuring there is a sustainable supply of high-quality lumber in conjunction with responsible harvesting practices. We also enlist the assistance of local legal experts and perform in-depth supply-chain research. The kind of caution we take in examining each lumber source allows us to assure you that J. Gibson McIlvain provides only the best lumber South America has to offer.

Some of our most sought-after South American hardwood species include Cumaru, Massaranduba, and Genuine Mahogany.

Cumaru wood boardsCumaru

Often confused with Teak, which comes from Southeast Asia, Cumaru’s yellowish brown hue and fine interlocking grain patterns make it an attractive alternative to Ipe, and Cumaru is often used for deck-building. Its water resistance is partially due to its oily, waxy texture. That texture, combined with its natural strength, hardness, and stability, make Cumaru ideal for exterior applications such as decking. Cumaru’s oiliness can cause some problems with gluing or finishing, but pretreatments can eliminate such problems easily. With proper drying techniques, Cumaru tends to dry evenly, making it preferable over cheaper decking species. Still less expensive than Ipe, it boasts many of the same characteristics. Cumaru is certainly one of the best tropical hardwood species South America has to offer.


Massaranduba decking woodAnother Ipe alternative, Massaranduba grows in abundance throughout South and Central America. This large tree is also known as Brazilian Redwood, growing up to 100 or even 150 feet tall. Straight trunks with wide diameters combine for low waste levels and large amounts of straight grain yields. The reddish brown heartwood and pale brown sapwood are nearly indistinguishable. The strength and hardness have earned this tropical species the nickname “Bulletwood,” and with polishing, it can achieve a high level of shine.

Massaranduba boasts weather and insect resistance similar to that of Ipe and looks great as a decking species. Periodic treatment can help control wood movement and retain the rich coloring. If Massaranduba is used for exterior applications where extreme changes in climate and moisture levels are issues, stability can be an issue, resulting in checking (especially if no treatment is performed). With proper finishes and oils, however, these issues with Massaranduba can be abated.

logging Genuine MahoganyGenuine Mahogany

Also called Honduran Mahogany, this well-known species was the first mahogany to become popular. Although it’s recently enjoyed popularity as an exterior species, Genuine Mahogany has long been championed by cabinet and furniture-makers. Extensive use by window and door manufacturers give testimony to its resistance to moisture and rot. This tropical hardwood species offers allure due to its deep, rich coloring and easy machining.

Whether you’re looking for an exceptional decking material or an ideal species for interior cabinetry, tropical hardwood lumber from South American may be the right choice for you. To find out more about which species would match up best with your next project, contact the hardwood specialists at J. Gibson McIlvain today.

J. Gibson McIlvain Company

Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company ( is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.

As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.

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