Gonçalo alves is a hardwood (from the Portuguese name, Gonçalo Alves). It is sometimes referred to as tigerwood — a name that underscore the wood’s often dramatic, contrasting color scheme, that some compare to rosewood.
While the sapwood is very light in color, the heartwood is a sombre brown, with dark streaks that give it a unique look. The wood’s color deepens with exposure and age and even the plainer-looking wood has a natural luster.
Two species are usually listed as sources for gonçalo alves: Astronium fraxinifolium and Astronium graveolens, although other species in the genus may yield similar wood; the amount of striping that is present may vary.
In the high tropical forests of Central and South America, well-drained soils furnish nutrients for a variety of dense, durable hardwoods sought for maritime use, heavyconstruction, and furniture. The Spanish began harvesting in Latin American forests in the early 1500s to provide timber for boatbuilding and repair. By the early 1900s, however, steel ships had replaced wooden ones, and the interest in tropical forests by both Europeans and Americans shifted to appearance-grade woods for furniture.
Although history fails to provide us with a shopping list of species from either harvest period, it's probable that the wood we know today as goncalo alves has always been sought. That's because goncalo alves, considered one of the most beautiful of tropical woods, has a tough reputation, too. Strong and durable, it's used for construction in its homeland and secondarily for fine furniture. Woodworkers elsewhere treasure the wood for decorative items and veneer accents.