The genus Hymenaea consists of about 25 species that occur in the West Indies and from southern Mexico through Central America into the Amazon basin of South America. The best-known and most important species is H. courbaril, which occurs throughout the range of the genus. Courbaril is often called jatoba in Brazil.
Sapwood of courbaril is gray-white and usually quite wide. The heartwood, which is sharply differentiated from the sapwood, is salmon red to orange-brown when freshly cut and becomes russet or reddish brown when dried. The heartwood is often marked with dark streaks. The texture is medium to rather coarse, and the grain is mostly interlocked. The wood is hard and heavy (about 800 kg/m3 (50 lb/ft3) at 12% moisture content). The strength properties of courbaril are quite high and very similar to those of shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), a species of lower specific gravity. Courbaril is rated as moderately to very resistant to attack by decay fungi and dry-wood termites. The heartwood is not treatable, but the sapwood is treatable with preservatives. Courbaril is moderately difficult to saw and machine because of its high density, but it can be machined to a smooth surface. Turning, gluing, and finishing properties are satisfactory. Planing, however, is somewhat difficult because of the interlocked grain. Courbaril compares favorably with white oak (Quercus alba) in steam bending behavior.
Courbaril is used for tool handles and other applications that require good shock resistance. It is also used for steam-bent parts, flooring, turnery, furniture and cabinetwork, veneer and plywood, railroad crossties, and other specialty items.
*Much of the base wood information presented here is made available by the USDA FPL FS. If you are interested in a much more technical description of wood properties, I encourage you to visit the source.