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jatoba brazilian cherry flooring kitchen

Jatoba: Not Really “Cherry”

It’s also known as Brazilian cherry wood, but jatoba wood should never be confused with the more familiar species that marks our gardens here in North America. That’s because the ‘cherry’ in the name refers not to the tree itself, but to the deep red color of its wood. It’s an important distinction because American cherry wood is significantly less hard and durable, and in fact much, much lighter in color than Brazilian cherry wood.

So where does that leave you, if you’re thinking about options for your new floor? Jatoba flooring is one of the most reliable and safe investments you can make for your home: it’s strong, heavy, resistant to insects, and altogether beautiful. Here’s what you need to know.

 

brazilian cherry jatoba close up

Jatoba stats
Latin name: Hymenaea courbaril
Janka Hardness rating: 2350 (harder than red oak)
Common color spectrum: Light orange-brown that deepens to a darker red-brown
Stability: Average, more stable than red oak

Suspended in Amber

In biological terms, the jatoba isn’t a tree. It’s a legume. A 130-foot-tall legume, at that. The reason that  jatoba grows so high and is so durable, despite its definition as a simple legume, is due to the fact that its resin is so resilient and rich.

As you may remember from the film Jurassic Park, tree resin is also known as amber, the tree sap that hardens as strong as stone. Jatoba happens to be one of the world’s most important and most pure sources of yellow amber, and its clear golden color is prized not only by Hollywood filmmakers but by jewelers and collectors all over the globe. It is even considered a healing agent in folk medicine.

It takes thousands, if not millions, of years for jatoba amber to fully harden into its precious brilliance. Even in the short term, however, the richness of this substance means that the wood of this legume transforms from bean pole to hardwood in only a few years.

 

Resonating with Rich Color

It’s easy to fall hard for jatoba’s beauty. The most significant aspect of this particular wood, in addition to its durability, is that its color stands out among all other flooring options. Its deep red tones and smooth grain are compelling and there really are few comparable options.

At the same time, this wood has a lot of color variation, and it’s important to prepare for that actuality ahead of time. Even samples from a plank lot of jatoba may not be able to capture the true look and feel of the floor you install. This doesn’t mean that your jatoba floor won’t look outstanding. In fact, many people seek out this exact look because a floor laid with jatoba comes across as natural, organic, and traditional. Even with its natural variation, jatoba tones will match beautifully and its fine grain comes across as sophisticated and elegant.

You’ll need to plan ahead with jatoba, as this is a long term investment. It takes about one to two years for your jatoba floor to take on its final color unless it is stained. The visibility of the grain will deepen over time. As well, if you lay down a rug on the floor soon after it is installed, you may find some color variation between the bare floor and its carpeted portions. It will take about six months for the color to even out on a jatoba floor once a rug is removed.

jatoba wood floors bowl of oranges

Tungston Hardwood – Unfinished Exotics, Brazilian Cherry from BuildDirect.

 

Lustrous and Luxurious

Clearly, the jatoba is a plant unlike any other. It’s not every day that you can turn a mere vegetable into a home building product.

But when it comes to jatoba flooring, what’s worthwhile remembering is that it’s one of the most a beautiful and elegant options available for your home. Jatoba also glues, stains, planes and finishes perfectly. All this means that this wood presents with a luxurious and deeply rich lustre, making your home come alive. With its stunning natural appearance and a soft finish under your feet, jatoba flooring lends itself to the creation of a stylish home that will look wonderful for years to come.

 

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Lisa Michelle

Lisa Michelle is an editor, lifestyle writer, and novelist. She’s also an avid traveler, lover of animals, and admitted Anglophile.