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Wood Species:

Scientific Name: Chlorophora excelsa

Trade Name: Harwood, Iroko

Family Name: Moraceae

Common Names: African Teak, Kambala, Mvule, Abang, Doussie, Odum, Intule, Tule

Regions of Distribution: These trees are found in Tropical Africa

Countries of Distribution: Gambia, Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Angola, Zaire.


Color: The wood displays a yellowish hue which darkens to a rich brown as the wood ages. If untreated, the wood will turn to a silvery-grey color.

Grain: Extremely interlocked and irregular grain with a medium to coarse texture.

Variations with species and grades: There are very wide variations between the different species.


Hardness/Janka: Fairly hard wood with a Janka rating of 1260

Dimensional stability: This wood has an excellent stability. It dries rapidly with very little shrinkage.

Origin: Iroko trees are only found in Africa

Availability: Moderate availability.

Average and maximum lifespan: The average lifespan of an Iroko tree is approximately two hundred years, although there are trees on recorded that are as old as four hundred years.


Sawing/Machining: This wood works very well whether you are using hand tools or machinery. It can split and splinter slightly at times as there can sometimes be calcium carbonate deposits found throughout the wood. These deposits may damage cutting tools and blades. The interlocked grains make it easy for the wood to tear in places as well.

Sanding: This wood sands fairly well, but upon re-sanding, it may also splinter or split. The dust can also contribute to contact dermatitis on touch or lung problems upon breathing it in.

Nailing: Iroko holds nails and screws well and it usually isn’t necessary to pre-drill holes. Hand nailing or using a nail gun are both widely used methods.

Finishing: This wood eventually finishes beautifully. At first, staining or bleaching can be difficult as Iroko wood can contain holes and pockets throughout. These holes will have to be filled in prior to finishing. It does hold glue well however, so it is widely used to craft sturdy furniture.

Common Uses: Commercial uses include the manufacturing of marina parts and boats as well as railroad crossties. Iroko can also be used to make household furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, and is used as flooring.

Detailed Description

Plant habit and lifestyle: Irokos can be found in areas of Africa which can be quite dry at times. They are not well adapted to long and intense droughts but still manage to flourish in drier areas.

Stems: The trunks are tall, straight, and cylinder shaped. There are usually no branches on the trunk until about 30 meters from the ground. The bark is a medium to dark grayish brown.

Buds: Small and bulbous and are often found in small clumps

Leaves: Full and bunched in large clusters on the upper branches, giving the tree a wide canopy. They range from medium to dark green in color and are mostly oval in shape.

Flowers: Found in both male and female although they grow independently and separate from each other. The flowers themselves have four petals and fully erect stamens.

Fruits: Grow in drupes, which mean that they contain one or more seeds inside and are surrounded by fleshy fruit on the outside. The fruits are usually about finger length and can be compared to mulberries.

Habitat: Irokos flourish best in dry, flat, and light areas in tropical Africa.

Special Diagnostic Characteristics: The bark of the Iroko tree was once used to make medicines to cure a variety of human ailments. Today, it is still occasionally used for such remedies. Iroko wood is often used as a substitute for teak, although it is not a member of the teak family at all.