The Brazilian Ironwood is a handsome tree which can grow to 20 m tall with a fluted-base and a rather flat-topped crown. The species originates from tropical America including Brazil and Bolivia and is popularly planted in Singapore for its ornamental characteristics. It was formerly known as Caesalpinia ferrea.
It is deciduous in nature and sheds its leaves for a part of the year. The leaf is bipinnately compound and feathery-looking. Each leaflet is oval to round and less than 1 cm across.
The trunk is light buff-yellow, smooth to touch and rather like soft leather. With age, the bark becomes grey or brownish and peels off in long, jagged and curled pieces, leaving spots of beige new bark. The multi-hued trunk resembles the colouration of a leopard’s hide, giving rise to its other common name, Leopard Tree.
Flowers are yellow, small, fragrant and borne in bunches near the branch tips. The seed pods are thick, green when young and turn dark brown, woody, hard and flattened when mature.
The wood of this species is extremely dense and heavy. The species epithet ‘ferrea’ means ‘iron’ in Latin and refers to the hardness of the wood. Unlike most other types of wood which will float in water, dried seasoned wood of the Brazilian Ironwood tree is so dense that it will sink instead!
The wood is often used for making fingerboards for guitars. It looks and feels similar to rosewood (Dalbergia spp.), but is harder with a slightly lighter colour. It is also used for flooring and furniture.
This fine specimen at Esplanade Park had a girth of 2.6 m when it was endorsed as a Heritage Tree in 2017.
Unique ID for Heritage Tree
Heritage Tree Information
- Scientific name
- Common name