Argentine Osage Orange

Geographic Distribution

The wood commonly referred to and sold as Argentine Osage Orange is known to botanists and other scientists as Maclura tinctoria.  In times past, M. tinctoria was classified as belonging to both the Chlorophora and Morus genuses although the species designation stayed consistent.

Those who are familiar with some of the more commonly desirable domestic hardwoods may recognize the Maclura genus from Maclura pomifera, otherwise known as American Osage Orange, about which I have written extensively in the past.  The common name Argentine Osage Orange is used to distinguish between these two closely related species without having to resort to Latin naming conventions.

As the common name suggests, M. tinctoria is harvested from the northeastern tropical regions of Argentina, however, the tree grows and can be harvested from a wide region of the American tropics stretching from southern Mexico through Central America and down into Argentina.  Given the very wide geographic range of M. tinctoria the common name is somewhat misleading although commonly understood among wood workers and vendors.

To make matters more confusing, the Guatemalan variety of this same tree is sometimes sold as “Mora” or “Guatemalan Tigerwood.”  The use of the common name “Mora” leads to confusion with another wood harvested in northern South America, but not in Guatemala, Mora excelsa, which is also sometimes sold under the common name “Mora.”  Any wood sold specifically as “Guatemalan Mora” or “Guatemalan Tigerwood” is in fact M. tinctoria.

Some people may be familiar with the name “fustic.”  This was the common name used by the British for this tree and its wood, but more specifically for the dye that can be extracted from the wood.  This dye was used to create, in addition to other colors, the unique khaki color of United States and other nations’ military uniforms especially during World War I.

For the sake of common understanding and ease of communication, I will refer to M. tinctoria from this point forward as Argentine Osage Orange.

Argentine Osage Orange

Argentine Osage Orange

General Characteristics

The heartwood of the Argentine Osage Orange is almost always golden to bright yellow in color.  Sadly this color will usually change over time upon exposure to ultraviolet light to a darker medium brown.  There are steps that can be taken to help slow this color change but it is usually not possible to completely prevent it.

Argentine Osage Orange features a straight to interlocked grain.

The finished texture is of a fine to medium nature.

The endgrain of Argentine Osage Orange presents as diffuse and porous with medium sized pores in no specific arrangement.  Additional endgrain technical details are available to interested parties from the Wood Database entry for this wood.

Argentine Osage Orange is very durable against rot due to fungus and features overall good weathering characteristics.  Argentine Osage Orange is also resistant to termites.

Working Characteristics

Argentine Osage Orange can be considered difficult to work with due to its characteristics hardness and density.  Oddly, however, Argentine Osage Orange is reported to have little dulling effect on cutting surface edges such as would be expected from a wood of its hardness and density.  Perhaps a lack of mineral deposits and inclusions account for its relative kindness to finely honed surfaces.

Argentine Osage Orange is reported to turn well which would be somewhat expected for a wood this hard.

Argentine Osage Orange stains, finishes, and glues well, although I should imagine that few wood workers would want to attempt to change the good natural color for which this wood is best known through the use of dyes or stains.

Argentine Osage Orange has no characteristic odor when worked or freshly cut.

Pricing and Availability

Within the range of prices for imported exotic hardwoods, prices for Argentine Osage Orange should fall in the moderate category, perhaps coming in close to the prices commanded by the domestic species.  However, it is much more common to find larger sizes of both dimensional lumber and turning blanks fashioned from Argentine Osage Orange as compared to the relatively limited sizes available of American Osage Orange.