The Exotic Woods of Belize
Belize lies in the heart of the once-mighty Mayan empire, as evidenced by majestic ruins visible throughout the country. First colonized in the 1600s by the British and Spanish, the country’s main attraction in the New World was its vast forests of precious hardwoods. The British logged Belize, which was known as British Honduras until 1981.
To get the logs from remote forests to seaports for shipping to Europe, they were floated down Belize’s rivers. During this transportation process, some of the logs sank to the bottom of the rivers, where they lay untouched for hundreds of years.
Belize’s old-growth hardwood forests were severely impacted by poor forestry practices from the 18th to 20th centuries. However, with the implementation of responsible forest management regulations and the fact that 70% of Belize presently is covered by forests teeming with almost 700 species of trees, Belize remains a great lumber-producing nation. So the average person can still enjoy having Exotic woods of Belize in their homes.
You Have Options
Belize has several species of wood to choose from. They can be easily attained, making for gorgeous and unique furniture and cabinetry. There are several lumber yards on the island as well as suppliers in the mainland which is only a cargo boat ride away. They range in price depending on the availability of the specie you request. They usually sell the lumber as mixed hardwood, which could include from 3 to 10 different woods. Which creates the beautiful mixture of colors for flooring or ceiling finishing these are perfect. Upon special order they also sell a sole specie.
The most popular wood used in Belize by far is Mahogany, which is the national tree of the country of Belize. It is a large canopy tree with a basal buttress that grows naturally in the rainforest. Sometimes these trees reach over 150 feet in height, with trunks sometimes more than 6 feet in diameter. Mahogany wood is one of the most stable woods when it comes to change of climate.
FUN FACT: When the mahogany is recently cut, the wood has a light color. As the mahogany get older its color changes to reddish brown, which makes it look even better. The wood varies from yellowish, reddish, pinkish, or salmon in color when cut and it matures to a deep rich red or reddish brown. Mahogany is fine to medium texture, with uniform to interlocking grain. Irregularities in the grain produce highly attractive figured patterns that are unique as well as beautiful.
Also known as Chakapte by the Mayas, it is native to the Americas. It is a deciduous tree of up to 100 feet in height and 2 ½ feet in diameter. With a unique combination of creamy-yellow sapwood encircling swirls of brown and black grains in the heartwood Zericote is highly prized for its beauty as well as strength.
A medium-sized to large canopy tree grows up to 100 feet in height in the natural rain forest, with trunk diameters of up to 3 feet. This gorgeous wood runs the color spectrum from violet to dark red to brown with frequent streaking and pronounced figure. Occasional light blonde sapwood contrasts beautifully with the heartwood. It is very hard, heavy, and dense with a tight grain and a fine texture.
Also known as Sapote or Chicle, this tree ranges in height from 60 ft in the open to 100 ft in dense forest. Sapodilla wood is strong and durable and timbers which formed supporting beams in Mayan temples have been found intact in ruins. A major by-product of the sapodilla tree is the gummy latex called “chicle” which for many years was used as the chief ingredient in chewing gum.
The list goes on. There are over 700 species of trees in Belize. The craftsmanship has been learned through many years so its easy to find someone who can do wonders with the wood.
If you are building from scratch or remodeling your home in Belize you have a wide variety of exotic lumber to choose from.
Stay tropical, and buy a home or condo in Belize which can be accented with these beautiful exotic woods. Stop by our RE/MAX office ( located directly across from Tropic Air on Ambergris Caye ) for more information on how to own your very own slice of paradise.