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Balsa tree appearance wood uses and lumber

Balsa trees are very common throughout the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, and the rainforests of Indonesia. The scientific name of balsa is ochroma pyramidale and is part of the bombacaceae family. The balsa tree produces the lightest commercial wood and is very fast growing. Due to these unique qualities and high demand balsa trees are often grown on plantations.

Balsa tree, leaf and fruit description

The Balsa tree can grow to heights up to 100 feet or 30 meters. The tree is classed evergreen and has leaves all year. Balsa leaves are arranged alternate and ovate to circular shaped. The leaves can reach lengths up to 10 inches or 30 cm and vary in color from light to dark green. During the dry season the balsa tree has nice looking white flowers. They turn into tree fruits with a flossy covering. The fruit covering is used as pillow filling.


Balsa tree bark and trunk

Young balsa trees have smooth green brown bark. When the tree gets older the bark becomes more porous and grey brown. The trunk of the balsa tree is long and straight without many branches. Balsa is fast growing and the trunk can extend 20 meters in 6 or 7 years. The diameter of the trunk depends on the age of the tree. Older trees can have trunks with a diameter up to 27 inch or 0.7 meters.

Balsa wood properties and durability

Balsa heartwood when fresh has a light pink to yellow color. The sapwood is a bit lighter and has a white to yellow colour. Balsa wood has a straight grained and spongy texture. The average dried weight of the wood at a moisture content of 12% is 160 kg per cubic meter. The durability of balsa wood is classed as V low durability.


Balsa wood working tips and uses

Balsa wood is well known for model-making, toys, artificial limbs and as core structure in various products. The wood is very easy to cut by hand and nails, screws, glues, and works well both by hand or machine. The porous wood structure can soak up glue or paint therefore multiple layers have to be applied.

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