What is hardwood?

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It is an expression that was created when our country was still a part of Portugal. "In the beginning of the Portuguese exploration, this term was made to describe the woods that could be cut down only if the Portuguese authorities allowed - so cutting depended on permission," says biologist John Batista Baitello, the Forestry Institute of São Paulo. At the time, the first tree to be described as hardwood was the Brazil wood in an attempt to prevent the wood to be smuggled by Spanish, French and English boats that were docked off the coast. Later, hardwoods such as Jatoba and Mahogany were also included in this category. "After independence, the rules of the Portuguese were no longer valid, but the term continued to be used every day. Today, hardwood is referred to as durable and of high commercial value," says John Batista. With this broader definition, species such as mahogany, cedar and rosewood have joined this noble team. One of the secrets to the durability of these trees is that they produce chemicals in their core, which protect the trunk from fungi and insect attack. Thanks to this protection, a noble species can survive hundreds of years and be used for various purposes, from houses, to the development of musical instruments, to the manufacturing of extremely durable furniture. However, the extensive deforestation has caused much of the hardwoods to practically be extinct from the country's forest. Its use was also restricted - the furniture sold today as "standard mahogany", for example, is actually made with a smaller amount of resistant woods, only covered by a thin layer of pure wood. Currently, the process is controlled: the law of environmental crimes, cutting hardwood without government authorization lead to up to two years in jail. The hard part is to enforce these rules. Unsurprisingly the hardwoods continue to disappear because of illegal logging.


One of the most appreciated features of this species is resistance; the artisan can carve the wood without the risk of the trunk cracking or chipping. Therefore, the jatoba is widely used for the manufacturing of furniture. Today, the Amazon and the sheltered areas in the Atlantic forest protect the last remnants of the species.


The first hardwood has been nearly eliminated from the woods during the colonial development. Brazil wood is great for the building violins, but the Portuguese were more interested in extracting the brasilina, a natural red dye. Today, there are areas being replanted in Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro leading to a slow revival of the species. The effort should only valuable in a few decades since a tree takes up to 30 years to become adult.


Originally from the subtropical forests of Paraná and São Paulo, this wood has dark color due to the chemicals that protect the torso against infestations of insects and fungi. Mostly used for making fine furniture, the walnut also began to disappear when deforestation increased, especially in the 20th century.


At this time, this type of wood, found in the forests of the northeastern coast has become so rare it is sold at price of gold; small pieces of wood are used as decoration for jewelry. Before the threat of extinction, the rosewood was wanted for the construction of luxurious furniture, decorative pieces and musical instruments.


Almost as destroyed as the Brazil wood, this heavy and resistant species was widely used for building roofs, floors, furniture and even bodies of trucks. This species is also found in the forests of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. However most of the trees are young, the trunks are too small to be used by the industry.


Used in manufacturing furniture and musical instruments, cedar is a rare hardwood. In the forests, a tree grows far apart from another; scientists believe that the cedar seed does not grow if the other plants do not leave. Today, it is difficult to find trees for scientific research. To make matters worse, the grown sprouts are attacked by a butterfly that prevents the plants' growth and can even kill them.



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