I was at a nursery last week and found some honest-to-goodness ironwood trees for sale.
Ironwood, AKA Lignum vitae, AKA “Tree of Life,” or, in this very specific Latin case, this thread, there are pictures of a bass guitar with a Lignum vitae fretboard and bridge., is quite an impressive tree. The wood is roughly three times the hardness of oak and sinks in water. I think it would be really cool to use for guitar parts. Perhaps the bridges and the nuts. In
Here’s a botanical drawing of the tree:
I was psyched by the find so I bought two trees.
“Lignum Vitae is regarded by most to be both the heaviest and hardest wood in the world. Its durability in submerged or ground-contact applications is also exceptional. Lignum Vitae has been used for propeller shaft bearings on ships, and its natural oils provide self-lubrication that gives the wood excellent wear resistance.
Unfortunately, Lignum Vitae has been exploited to the brink of extinction, and is now an endangered species.”
Let’s fix that by planting some.
One of the two trees I bought will be planted at a mountain farm where I’m doing some consulting, the other one will be planted at the resort where I’ve been planting gardens. They are a slow-growing tree, so the time to plant is right now. When I get my own land, I’ll plant more.
Beyond their amazing wood, Lignum vitae trees are also attractive to bees and butterflies, bearing a profusion of beautiful flowers.
If you live in South Florida, there is a native version of Lignum vitae you can grow in your landscaping.
The Miami Herald has a nice article covering both versions.
“G. officinale is native to the Caribbean (it’s the national flower of Jamaica), and parts of Central and South America. G. sanctum — or holywood — can also be called native to the Caribbean and parts of Central America, as well as the very south of South Florida — only Monroe County and Miami-Dade as an escaped ornamental.”
Here’s a video showing a large tree in bloom:
If you live in the right climate, plant some. It takes a wide range of conditions and is an endangered tree. You can’t even import the wood to the US anymore due to international restrictions on the species. Grow your own!
We are in east Martin County Fl and our Lignum Vitae is doing well. We purchased the small plant from a local lady selling some natives about 10 years back. Have good success germinating the seeds but they really are slow growers. They bloom multiple times each year. I also saw one downtown Stuart in the art museum landscape.
Have you ever tried to tap ironwood for syrup in florida? I’ve heard it can be done in florida but I’m looking for a florida how to on tree tapping for syrup. I’m interested in sycamore as well.