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Peltogyne paniculata Taub78b.png
Peltogyne paniculata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Detarioideae
Genus: Peltogyne

See text

  • Orectospermum Schott

Peltogyne, commonly known as purpleheart, amendoim or amaranth, is a genus of 23 species of flowering plants in the family Fabaceae, native to tropical regions of Central and South America, where they occur in tropical rainforests. Purpleheart comes from the rainforests of Brazil, Guyana, and Suriname.[2]

They are medium-sized to large trees growing to 30–50 m (100–160 ft) tall, with trunk diameters of up to 1.5 m (5 ft). The leaves are alternate, divided into a symmetrical pair of large leaflets 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and 2–4 cm (1–2 in) broad. The flowers are small, with five white petals, produced in panicles. The fruit is a pod containing a single seed.


The species of the genus range from southeastern Brazil through northern South America, Panama, Costa Rica, and Trinidad, with the majority of species in the Amazon Basin. P. mexicana is a geographic outlier, native to the Mexican state of Guerrero.[3]


Purpleheart is an extremely dense and water-resistant wood. It is ranked one of the hardest and stiffest of the woods in the world. It is so durable that it can be used in applications that require toughness, such as truck decking.[4] The trees are prized for their beautiful heartwood which, when cut, quickly turns from a light brown to a rich purple color. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light darkens the wood to a brown color with a slight hue of the original purple. The longer the wood is exposed to UV lights (e.g. sunlight), the colour of purple slowly changes from a light purple to a substantially chocolate-purple colour.[5] This effect can be minimized with a finish containing a UV inhibitor. The dry wood is very hard and dense with a specific gravity of 0.86 (860 kg/m3 or 54 lb/cu ft). Carbide blades are recommended when working with purpleheart wood. The wood is also known as amaranth and violet wood. Overharvesting has caused several species to become endangered in areas where they were once abundant.[6]



Purpleheart is prized for use in fine inlay work, woodturning, cabinetry, flooring, and furniture. Purpleheart is also notably used for guitar or musical instrument inlays and design. Exposure to the dust, generated by cutting and sanding purpleheart, can cause irritation and nausea, possibly due to the presence of dalbergione (neoflavonoid) compounds in the wood. This also makes purpleheart wood unsuitable to most people for use in jewelry.[7] Purpleheart is also a fairly expensive wood, which is why it is usually used in smaller-scale projects.[8] Purpleheart is difficult to work with.[9]



  1. ^ R. C. Barneby (1983). "(711)-(712) Proposals to conserve Plathymenia against Echyrospermum and Peltogyne against Orectospermum (Leguminosae)". Taxon. 32 (3): 488–490. JSTOR 1221525. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Sotuyo, Solange. "El palo morado (Peltogyne mexicana), una leguminosa maderable con futuro incierto y parents lejanos". Revista Digital Universitaria, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico. [1] Accessed 25 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Purpleheart Wood". 
  6. ^ "Purpleheart - Peltogyne - Madera Sudamerica -Consorcio forestal". 
  7. ^ Peltogyne in BoDD – Botanical Dermatology Database
  8. ^ J. L. Atrops (1970). Strength Properties of Trinidadian Timbers. University of the West Indies. 
  9. ^ Garnet Hall (February 2006). The Art of Intarsia: Projects & Patterns. Tamos Books, Incorporated. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-1-895569-75-9.