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Peltogyne floribunda - (Kunth) Benth.

Common Name Purpleheart, pau-roxo, zapatero
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats A canopy tree, it occurs principally on moist, hard, red clay soils, though it also succeeds in dry sites[378 ].
Range S. America - Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana; Caribbean - Trinidad and Tobago.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Peltogyne floribunda Purpleheart, pau-roxo, zapatero

Peltogyne floribunda Purpleheart, pau-roxo, zapatero


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Commonly found in South America particularly in Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, Purpleheart or Peltogyne floribunda is a semi deciduous tree that is a major source of purpleheart wood. The wood is extremely hard and heavy, strong, and highly durable. It is well known for its color, which is often purple. It is of high quality, thus highly valued and is relatively expensive. The wood yields an aromatic resin that has medicinal properties and used to produce a red dye for textile fabrics. Peltogyne floribunda has no known edible part but it has a wide range of other uses. Its bark is used for making canoes. It has an umbrella-shaped canopy and a straight, cylindrical, buttressed bole that can be up to 90cm in diameter and unbranched for up to 25m.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Peltogyne floribunda is a deciduous Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Hymenaea floribunda Kunth Hymenaea latifolia Hayne Peltogyne latifolia Benth. Peltogyne porphyrocard

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

An aromatic resin extracted from the wood is used in medicine[378 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Furniture  Resin  Wood

Other Uses An aromatic resin is extracted from the wood[378 ]. It is used in medicine, as a substitute for turpentine, and to produce a red dye for dying textile fabrics[378 ]. The bark of mature trees is used by local people for making canoes[378 ]. The heartwood is a greyish purple when freshly cut, later becoming a violet purple to deep purple through an oxidation process and then slowly darkening to an attractive deep brown; it is clearly demarcated from the 5 - 10cm thick layer of creamy white to light pinkish cinnamon streaked with light brown sapwood. The uniform texture varies from fine to medium; the grain is usually straight and seldom interlocked, but is sufficiently irregular, along with variation in lustre and colour, to give the wood a pleasing stripe figure on the quarter-cut surface; lustre is medium, somewhat greasy in appearance, and cold to the touch; no distinctive odour or taste is present in seasoned wood. The wood is very hard, extremely heavy, strong, tough, and very durable in the soil, but it is most often recognized for its unusual colouring, which at times is actually purple. In due time, the purplish colour is lost and the wood turns a permanent attractive dark brown. However, the exterior brown colour is only at the surface and by removing a thin layer the original colouring can be restored. Unfortunately, the oxidation process will again prevail, turning the wood first to purple and later to a walnut brown and finally to a black-brown colour with age. It seasons somewhat slowly, with only a slight risk of checking and distortion; once dry it is moderately stable in service. The wood is moderately difficult to work with either hand or machine tools, for the wood resists cutting and dulls cutting edges. It also exudes a gummy resin when heated by dull tools; this resin clings to cutter teeth and other tool parts and complicates the machining operations. Straight-grained material saws and planes well if sharp tools are used, but some care is required on irregular-grained material to prevent pick-up, especially on the radial surface. The wood turns smoothly and requires but little sanding to bring out a good finish. It is easily fastened by gluing and takes stain and either wax or French polish well, but its purple colour is dissipated by spirit polishes. A lacquer finish is reported to hold this purple colouring. The wood splits when nailed and requires preboring; it can be veneered with a hot glue. A relatively expensive, high-quality wood, it should, in general, be put into one of two uses: (1) Those requiring wood of great strength, particularly the ability to withstand strain and sudden shocks; and (2) those requiring wood of unusual beauty or colouring[378 , 848 ]. Because of its unique shades and peculiar variegated or mottle colour effect, it is particularly well adapted for use in turnery, marquetry, cabinets, ornamental furniture, counters, office desks, counter tops, carving, inlaying, billiard cue butts, swagger sticks, panelling, decorative handles, veneer parquet flooring, handles, billiard tables, and other similar uses. The good mechanical characteristics of the wood fits it for such specialized uses as gymnasium apparatus, diving boards, skis, mill rollers, shafts, and tool handles. Purpleheart is considered Brazil? s best timber for spokes in cart wheels. Because the wood has dimensional stability, it is used in the tropics for window frames and sliding shades. Though expensive, its high strength, hardness, and resistance to decay qualify it for structural purposes, house framing, bridging, fresh water piling, and for many other parts of house construction from millwork to flooring and siding[378 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of low elevations in the tropics, in at least part of its range it receives a mean annual rainfall of 1,500 - 1,750mm[378 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed -

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Purpleheart, pau-roxo - Portuguese, zapatero - Spanish.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Guyana; Brazil; Trinidad and Tobago

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Peltogyne paniculataPurpleheart, pau-roxo, amaranttradTree30.0 10-12 MMHNDM014
Peltogyne purpureaPurpleheart, Amaranth, NazarenoTree30.0 10-12 MLMHNDM004
Peltogyne venosaPurpleheartTree30.0 10-12 MMHNDM014

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Kunth) Benth.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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