A type of hardwood, commonly known as Brazilian cherry, was used as flooring in countless houses from 2000 to 2005. In reality, this wood is not a member of the cherry family at all but is instead a legume species, Hymenaea courbaril. It is also known as jatoba, locust, or courbaril.
The common name Brazilian cherry was a marketing ploy used to play off the wood’s blazing deep red color. Brazilian cherry signified over-the-top grandiosity at one time, but while its popularity has somewhat faded, this beautiful wood is still a viable choice for flooring. It is available in several forms, ranging from solid hardwood planks to look-alike plastic laminates.
Brazilian Cherry’s Origins
As the common name implies, Brazilian cherry (Jatoba) does hail from the rainforests of Brazil. It is an extremely hard wood, with a Janka hardwood rating of 2350 (white oak has a Janka rating of 1360). While hard to work, Jatoba accepts stains and finishes very well, which is why it has been such a popular choice for flooring. Trees typically grow 100 to 130 feet high.
As a Flooring Material
This red or salmon-colored wood often has attractive streaks of darker strips. Solid hardwood planks are difficult to install except by professionals, but engineered wood varieties are available, which are easier for DIYers to install. While the wood’s popularity among furniture builders and woodworkers has waned, Brazilian cherry is still regarded as a very strong and durable flooring material.
Brazilian cherry is considered by some to be an endangered tree species since it comes from heavily-logged Amazon areas. However, FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) Brazilian cherry flooring can be purchased. And the species is not listed in the CITES Appendices; it and is listed by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.