Aside from their great beauty, one of the important things homeowners should know about tigerwood floors is that they come from the Goncalo alves tree (Astronium graveolens, A. fraxinifolium or A. Astronium lecointei) that is native to Brazilian rainforests. Goncalo alves also is commonly called the tigerwood, zebrawood and Brazilian koa tree. Due to the popularity of its dramatically striped wood, it is rare outside of nature preserves. The Tropical American Tree Farms website notes that Costa Rica lists it as an endangered species.
Rising up to 120 feet tall, Goncalo (Goon-SAH-loo) alves is a canopy tree that branches about two-thirds of the way up a trunk that is straight as a telephone pole and up to 5 feet thick. It is part of the Anacardiaceae family, which includes cashew and pistachio trees. Irregular brownish black stripes interrupt the orangish-brown to deep mahogany of tigerwood lumber. It is dense, durable, fine textured and easy to polish. However, one flooring company notes that it requires careful sanding.
Aside from difficulties with sanding and sawing, tigerwood also is problematic because it changes color when exposed to sunlight. Flooring near windows may become a lighter shade than in other parts of a house. However, the Better Hardwoods website says that tigerwood air dries well with minor warping, shrinks only minimally after drying, seldom splinters and "provides great wear resistance." It adds that the heartwood of the tree is resistant to attack by termites and other insects, which is an important quality in flooring.
In addition to flooring, Tigerwood is in demand for use in archery bows, bowls and trays, cabinetry, fine furniture and veneer work.
The Minneapolis Real Estate website cites an additional concern about all Brazilian hardwoods. It says there "is a good chance" that slaves and children are harvesting the trees. It suggests that anyone planning on installing a Brazilian hardwood floor should make sure the product is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global organization that focuses on responsible forest management.