For many years, the only species of lignumvitae used on a large scale was Guaiacum officinale, which is native to the West Indies, northern Venezuela, northern Colombia, and Panama. With the near exhaustion of G. officinale, harvesters turned to G. sanctum, which is now the principal commercial species. Guaiacum sanctum occupies the same range as G. officinale but is more extensive and includes the Pacific side of Central America as well as southern Mexico.
Lignumvitae is one of the heaviest and hardest woods on the market. The wood is characterized by its unique green color and oily or waxy feel. The wood has a fine uniform texture and closely interlocked grain. Its resin content may constitute up to one-fourth of the air-dried weight of the heartwood.
Lignumvitae wood is used chiefly for bearing or bushing blocks for ship propeller shafts. The great strength and tenacity of lignumvitae, combined with self-lubricating properties resulting from the high resin content, make it especially adaptable for underwater use. It is also used for such articles as mallets, pulley sheaves, caster wheels, stencil and chisel blocks, and turned products.
*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.