This section provides a list of tropical wood species arranged alphabetically. These woods should be avoided unless they carry independent certification, accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), as having been cut in a well-managed operation* and only from second-growth forests. But even independently certified woods should be avoided when more environmentally preferable alternatives are available.

Logging plays a critical role in driving the destruction of tropical rainforests. While most of the wood cut in the tropics is used in the countries of origin, Rainforest Relief has found that it is the demand for highly sought-after species that is the key factor driving the logging. It can work in two ways. Either the demand for the high-value species drives logging and is mostly exported (as is the case with mahogany in Brazil, okoume in west Africa, ramin in Indonesia and others) or the demand for the best grade of wood can drive extreme levels of production (as in the case of ipê in Brazil and others). In the latter case, a small faction of the production is exported, but it is the highest value fraction. What remains is often used in the country of origin.

It’s like trying to find a good cup of coffee in Costa Rica. All the export quality coffee is exported. What stays behind is the lower grades. That’s because the exporter will get much more by selling to importers in other countries then by selling to distributors in Costa Rica.

It works the same way with wood. Exporters of ipê in Brazil (for instance) will make more money by selling to ipê importers in the U.S. than they will by selling to distributors in Brazil. So most of the export quality ipê is exported. This higher value drives the demand for loggers to hunt down more and more ipê trees.

Ipê, like many other trees in the tropical rainforests, only occurs in densities of one or two individual trees per acre in most of its natural range. To meet the orders for hundreds of thousands of board feet of FAS (“fine and select” or “four-side-clear” — meaning no knots or defects on all four sides of the board for its entire length), loggers have to log thousands of trees. That means bulldozing roads and skid trails into thousands of mostly pristine acres of old growth rainforests as well as damaging or destroying up to 28 trees for every one they target. The canopy is reduced by about 50% after loggers take the mahogany, ipê, jatoba and a few other high-value species for export.

This is the case with dozens of species of trees throughout the tropics.

Species listed in this section are logged from tropical forests and imported into the US. They should be avoided. Less damaging is wood that carries independent certification accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). But even certified tropical wood can be from old-growth rainforests and even certified “well managed” logging is permanently damaging (see articles about the study). Non-wood alternatives or at the very least domestic alternatives should be used (see the Alternatives section or see our Guidelines to Avoiding Wood from Endangered Forests). Also, beware of vendors selling wood with chain-of-custody certification — this only means they are certified to be able to sell certified wood. Ask to see a certificate from the producer, as many COC-certified vendors don’t actually sell much certified wood.

*Even independenlty certified woods should be avoided for some uses and old growth tropical woods should be avoided entirely. Recycled plastic lumber (RPL) is a more environmentally sound alternative to any wood for most outdoor uses such as decks (both the decking and the understructure), benches, pilings, piers, docks, boardwalks, bulkheads, signs, posts, picnic tables, truck stakes and floors, etc. There's simply no good reason to log rainforest for a product that can be made from local recycled materials that will outlast any wood.