In the second part of our two-part blog, we look at some of the non-native species we use to create our wooden kitchen worktops and learn a little more about them. Last week we looked at common British trees, this week we take a look at the African trees whose beautiful and exotic timber makes great kitchen worktops.
Iroko trees (Milicia) are African trees that originate from the tropics and are found from Guinea-Bissau to Mozambique where they can reach heights of up to 45m and live almost 500 years. The tree is revered by many cultures – it has historical associations with fertility and birth, with some believing that the tree housed the spirit of the Iroko Man and would offer gifts to show respect.
Although the timbers are unrelated, iroko is sometimes known as African teak because it makes a good alternative and is less expensive in comparison. The iroko timber that is used to make our iroko worktops is very durable – particularly that of the heartwood – which is one of the reasons why we use it. The other reason is its beauty -when new, iroko has a golden colour but matures to reddish brown or rich bronze over time.
Wenge tree (Millettia) is an African tree that is found in the tropical regions in countries such as Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They reach a height of up to 27m tall yet, amazingly, they are a relative of the garden pea. Wenge is an important tree in Africa and is used to help reforestation efforts on land that has been previously used for cultivation.
Known by some as faux ebony, wenge is an incredibly dark, almost black wood that contrasts spectacularly with Maple. It is commonly used for making musical instruments such as guitars but the wood can also be used to make a fantastic, luxurious wenge worktops. As well as colour, wenge is highly appreciated for its density which makes it perfect to use for our worktops.
Our zebrano worktops come from Microberlinia trees which are found growing to a height of around 40m throughout the west of the African continent. This African tree is tall and straight which makes it perfect for cutting long timber.
Much like the animals found in Africa, zebrano wood looks exotic and has distinctive patterns. It gets its name from the dark grains on a light background, giving it the appearance of a zebra. This contrasting colouration makes it the ideal wood if you want to make a bold statement in your kitchen. Although chosen for its pattern, zebrano wood is strong and stiff and has a fairly high density which makes it ideal for worktops.
Sapele (Entandrophragma) is another African tree that is native to tropical regions and is known colloquially as aboudikro. This is a big tree that can sometimes reach 60m in height, however more commonly grows to 40m. Mahogany is a close relative and has a similar appearance and quality and so sapele is sometime referred to as African mahogany.
Aside from musical instruments, the wood is commonly used for furniture including our sapele worktops. Sapele wood starts off with a pale rose colour but eventually develops a beautifully rich chestnut that is the perfect intermediate between iroko and wenge.
Do you have any questions about tropical African trees? Comment and share your thoughts below. Why not share some of your pictures on Facebook or Twitter showing us how you have used iroko, wenge, zebrano or sapele in your kitchen. If you prefer native timber in your home, be sure to read our blog post from last week which discusses which common British trees make good wooden worktops.
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