Not Many Knocks Against Environment-Friendly Hardwood
For years, foresters have sought a fast growing, environmentally responsible hardwood with the dual tangibles of good looks for the home and sustainable growth.
They seem to have found the answer in Brazil.
The hardwood that the industry is so soft on is a plantation-raised eucalyptus hybrid reported to be harder than oak, maple, cherry and mahogany. It grows to maturity in roughly one-third the time of comparable woods and after harvest continues to regenerate itself from the stumps and roots of the previous generation of trees.
According to U.S. forest products company Weyerhaeuser, lyptus, as this hybrid is called, fills multiple roles for homeowners from flooring to banisters to cabinetry.
"Everyone gets excited when they first see it," says Pete Gargano of Weyerhaeuser. He likens lyptus' natural color to cherry but with wood grain similar to mahogany. The wood can be stained for a lighter or darker appearance. "It fills a lot of homeowner needs throughout the house plus it's renewable. There's a lot of pluses to this wood."
Not the least of which is wood that grows and re-grows on the same plot of land. The trees are ready for harvest in 14 to 16 years in the warm Brazilian climate, a far faster pace than comparable species, which can take 50 to 70 years in colder climes.
The plantations are not standing row after standing row of hybrid eucalyptus either. The timber is grown alongside indigenous Brazilian woods that are not cut down. Fully one-third of plantation land remains native plants. This forest management practice maintains a natural balance to local ecosystems, says Ian Firth of Weyerhaeuser building materials.
Company officials add that minimal disturbance of land for eucalyptus cultivation as a major plus to this hybrid.
Lyptus only recently appeared on a national scale, and already has drawn converts. Mike Garner of Lafferty Lumber in Lemoyne, Pa., sold two floors within days of lyptus hitting his local market. "Everyone who sees the floor asks right away 'What is this?'" says Garner. He sees consumers as ready for a tough new hardwood alternative in the home flooring marketplace.
Up to 32 million board feet of the lumber are slated for harvest each year. Brazilian mills process the timber before it is shipped to the United States for final fabrication.
Source: Associated Press