A very similar species in both appearance & properties to African Sapele. Santa Maria comes from central America where it is used in a variety of building applications.
Common/vernacular names: Santa Maria (Central America), Jacareúba & Pau de Maria (Brazilian name), Guanandi, Palo de Maria, Aceite Maria (Columbia), Leche de Maria (Mexico), Calaba (Panama) & several more, depending on the country of origin.
Distribution: Santa Maria grows throughout the West Indies & in South & Central America from Mexico to Brazil, including Guatemala & Honduras. The tree reportedly grows on most soil types, from humid forest areas to pure sandy soils as well as more rockier drier sites.
The Tree: Reported to attain a height of around 100’ to 150’ (30 to 45m) with trunk diameters of 1.0 to 2.0m. The bole is reported to be straight, cylindrical & (with no buttress) can be up to around 50’ to 65’ (15 to 20m) in length.
General characteristics: The timber is reported to bear a passing resemblance to a ‘plain’ mahogany & has sometimes been mistaken for this species. The timber has quite a wide sapwood (40mm to 65mm) which is usually lighter in colour than the yellowish-pink to brick-red or rich reddish-brown heartwood. The heartwood of quarter-sawn material can produce an attractive ribbon/stripe figure as the grain is said to be generally interlocked. The texture is medium & relatively uniform. It is classed as having low to medium luster. Santa Maria is very similar to Sapele & is suitable for similar applications.
Density/Weight: According to ‘The Wood Exchange’ on the World Agroforestry’s density website it is cited as being a medium density timber ranging from 530 to 720 kg/m3. Other information from the TRADA ‘Redbooks’ suggests an average density of 610 kg/m3 when dried. The publication ‘Tropical Timbers of the World’ reports that the basic specific gravity (oven-dry weight/green volume) for this species is 0.51 & the air-dry density is listed as 39 lbs/ft3. Samples held at TRADA were found to have a density of 697 kg/m3.
Drying & Shrinkage: It is reported that the timber is moderately difficult to air-dry & dries slowly with considerable warping & splitting, as the moisture is often difficult to extract from the centre of thicker boards. Other sources note that warp is said to be moderate to severe although checking is slight. The radial shrinkage from green to oven-dry is reported to be 4.6% and for tangential 8.0%; with a volumetric rate of 13.6%. When quartersawn material is kiln-dried carefully, the timber is of first-class quality & it is this timber that we use in the manufacturing of our conservatories & orangeries. Movement characteristics in service are reported to be medium.
Durability: TRADA rates the heartwood as very durable whilst other sources state that it is only 'moderately durable to durable' with respect to decay resistance. Tests carried out in the USA found this timber to be durable against white and brown rot. It is said to be resistant to Lyctus beetles. The resistance against marine borers & termites is not clear as one source notes it is susceptible to attack from marine borers but moderately resistant to termites.
Preservation: The heartwood is extremely resistant to impregnation with wood preservatives. The sapwood is said to have good permeability if incised.
Strength: For its density, ‘Santa Maria’ is one of the strongest woods in its class. It exceeds mahogany in all strength properties & is more comparable to American white oak.
Uses: The timber is used for a variety of purposes in South and Central America including heavy construction, structural timber, flooring, furniture, mine timber, ship & boat building, joinery, railway sleepers & turnery. We have used this material in the manufacturing of tie bars & other structural components of our Conservatories & Orangeries.
The Environment: We only purchase our our timer from saw mills who have established a supply of Santa Maria in Central America which is produced from well managed forests, independently certified in accordance with the rules of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).