Ipe, the common name for the lapacho group of the genus Tabebuia, consists of about 20 species of trees and occurs in practically every Latin America country except Chile. Other commonly used names are guayacan and lapacho. Sapwood is relatively wide, yellowish gray or gray-brown, and sharply differentiated from heartwood, which is light to dark olive brown. The texture is fine to medium. The grain is straight to very irregular and often narrowly interlocked.
The wood is very heavy and averages about 1,025 kg/m3 (64 lb/ft3) at 12% moisture content. Thoroughly air-dried heartwood specimens generally sink in water. Because of its high density and hardness, ipe is moderately difficult to machine, but glassy smooth surfaces can be produced. Ipe is very strong; in the air-dried condition, it is comparable with greenheart (Chlorocardium rodiei). Hardness is two to three times that of white oak (Quercus alba) or keruing (Dipterocarpus). The wood is highly resistant to decay and insects, including both subterranean and dry-wood termites, but susceptible to marine borer attack. The heartwood is impermeable, but the sapwood can be readily treated with preservatives.
Ipe is used almost exclusively for heavy-duty and durable construction. Because of its hardness and good dimensional stability, it is particularly well suited for heavy-duty flooring in trucks and boxcars. It is also used for decks, railroad crossties, turnery, tool handles, decorative veneers, and some specialty items in textile mills.
*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.