Geographic Distribution:

The wood commonly known as Jatoba is known to botanists and other scientists as Hymenaea courbaril.  H. courbaril is native to the tropical Americas, ranging from southern Mexico through Central America and into South America as well as on Caribbean islands.

For the sake of simplicity and common understanding, I will refer to H. courbaril as Jatoba from here forward.

Note: H. courbaril is also noted as being sold as Guapinolillo but having worked with wood labeled as such, I fail to see any real resemblance between it and Jatoba.

General Characteristics:

The heartwood color of Jatoba is variable, ranging from a light orangish brown to a darker reddish brown, sometimes with contrasting darker grayish brown streaks.  As is common with colored tropical hardwoods, the color tends to darken upon exposure to light.  The sapwood of Jatoba is a light grayish yellow which is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.

The grain of Jatoba is typically interlocked, with a medium to coarse texture.

Jatoba demonstrates a good natural luster.

Jatoba is rated as being very durable in regards to rot resistance, and Jatoba is also resistant to termites and most other insects.  However, Jatoba has been reported to be susceptible to attack from marine borers.

Working Characteristics:

Jatoba is considered difficult to work with on account of its density and hardness.  Jatoba has a moderate blunting effect on tool cutters.

Jatoba also tends to be difficult to plane without tearout due to its interlocking grain.

However, Jatoba glues, stains, turns, and finishes well.

Jatoba is reported to respond well to steam-bending.

Jatoba has no characteristic odor when freshly cut or worked.

Pricing and Availability:

Jatoba is widely available in satisfactory sizes and widths as lumber, and Jatoba is also available as flooring planks. Jatoba is comparatively inexpensive for an imported timber.

In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence.  These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.

Of these vendors, West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, WoodTurningz, and Got Wood? are offering Jatoba.  Note that West Penn Hardwoods is only offering lumber and Got Wood? markets their Jatoba as Brazilian Cherry.  The best selection is with WoodTurningz where an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ will cost you $999!  I think this has to be an error.  Their price on a 6″ x 6″ x 3″ is only $17.50.

Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers.  In your search for Jatoba this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings.  I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.

A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer.  I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand.  It happens to me all the time!

Common Uses:

Jatoba is commonly used to make flooring, furniture, cabinetry, tool handles, shipbuilding, railroad ties, turned objects, and other small specialty items.


Jatoba is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and Jatoba is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.