open main page for all woods          open page 2 for articles



MONKEY POD / RAINTREE

albizia saman (and see table below)

Albizia saman of the family Fabaceae (syn. Leguminosae) the legume, pea, or bean family, but also see the table below for possible name confusion. Native to the Neotropics. Its range extends from Mexico south to Peru and Brazil. It has also been introduced to South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii

Correspondent Eric Jackson tells me "Samanea saman is from central america but has been widely planted as a popular shade tree worldwide, especially in asia and hawaii so much so that locals think they are indigenous. In the phillipines they are called acacias and in Singapore they call them raintrees and I believe hawaii as well. In Panama they are called guachapali, red or white. In costa rica they are called cenizaro and confusingly in el salvador, zorra."

Botanical names that use raintree and monkey pod:
BOTH: albizia saman (synonyms: samanea saman,
pithecellobium saman, and Enterolobium saman)
RAINTREEMONKEY POD
albizia lebbeck
(more commonly called lebbeck)
acacia propinqua
brunfelsia americanacalliandra saman
enterolobium cyclocarpum
(more commonly called kelobra)
inga saman
lonchocarpus capassamimosa saman
GOLDEN RAINTREEpithecellobium dulce
koelreuteria eleganszygia saman
koelreuteria paniculata
laburnum anagyroides


As you can see in the table directly above there are at least 6, and probably more, totally unrelated species that use the common name monkey pod (and sometimes others). Similarly raintree is used by several botanical names. Nonetheless, my experience has been that most of the wood that is sold in the USA as either raintree or monkey pod is Albizia saman and thus I have lumped the "two" woods together on this page.

I do not know what any of the pics below might be except as specifically listed. Interestingly, although all of the monkey pod species shown in the table above are of different genera, most of them have the specific epithet samen, which I am sure is significant to a botanist, but I have not researched what significance it might have for a woodworker. It is probable that there is none --- that is, the characteristics that cause botanists to give the specific epithet samen to the various unrelated species will have to do with external characteristics of the tree (e.g. leaf shape, etc) and have no bearing on the characteristics of the lumber.

Enterolobium cyclocarpum is sometimes listed as raintree, but it is more commonly called kelobra or perota or guanacaste and I have it on this site as kelobra. Similarly, Albizia lebbeck is sometimes called raintree but is more commonly called lebbeck or woman's tongue and is on this site as lebbeck.

my samples:
NOTE: these pics were all taken in very bright incandescent lighting ("soft white" at 2700K)
colors will vary under other lighting conditions


both sides of a sample plank of monkey pod / Samanea saman --- HUGE enlargements are present. This plank is almost all sapwood and has some spalting.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above --- as is sometimes the case with particularly soft/light woods, the end grain sanding did not do as good a job as it does on harder woods, and only in a small area in the upper left of this can you see the fine grain details


both sides of a sample plank of monkey pod / Samanea saman --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above --- this piece sanded more uniformly than the one above this but even on this one the softness of the wood made the fine grain details look muddy and indistinct.


both sides of a sample plank of monkey pod / Samanea saman --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


both sides of a sample plank of raintree / Albizia saman --- HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


small piece of monkey pod which prorated out to 44lbs/cuft which is extremely heavy compared to my other samples of monkey pod


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


all 4 faces of the piece directly above


pics of a moistened, bookmatched, crotch slab and a bench, milled, worked, and photographed by Funktionhouse in florida, whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.

web pics:



flat cut and quartersawn


flat cut plank listed as monkey pod / Samanea saman


plank listed as raintree / Samanea saman


plank listed as raintree / Pithecellobium spp. and is presumably Pithecellobium saman which is a synonym for Albizia saman


plank listed as saman / Samanea saman


planks listed as golden raintree / Albizia saman. The vendor of these plank INSISTS that both the "golden raintree" and the "Albizia saman" designations are correct but (1) they don't know that for a fact themselves, they are relying on their vendor in South America, and (2) every bit of research I have done says otherwise. Albizia saman is raintree, never "golden" raintree. The only botanical names for golden raintree are Koelreuteria elegans and Koelreuteria paniculata. SO ... despite what the vendor says, I'm considering this to be raintree/monkey pod / Albizia saman, not golden raintree.




planks listed as monkey pod


plank listed as raintree / Enterolobium saman


three planks from the same vendor, labeled raintree / Albizia saman / Samanea saman --- I am confident these are not a raw wood color but have been moistened for the pics and I the strong olive green color is unlikely but not impossible. I couldn't tell for sure from the pics but the first two each appeared to be about 24" wide.


monkey pod bookmatch thins


planks listed as monkey pod / Pithecellobium saman which is a synonym for Albizia saman


Hawaiian monkey pod planks and a closeup


the other side of the planks directly above and a closeup


Hawaiian monkey pod slabs


Hawaiian monkey pod planks


plank listed as carreto / Pithecellobium saman --- however, I just realized that this pic was lifted from the one at the top of the "web pics" section (but not by me ... I got the pics from different web pages) and cropped. The one at the top of the page was just listed as monkey pod with no botanical designation.


monkey pod pen blanks that have been oiled and waxed and that are from a vendor who makes many of her woods look purple regardless of what color they actually are


turning stock listed as monkey pod / Pithecellobium saman


monkey pod turning stock


turning sticks listed as raintree


monkey pod pen blanks


slabs listed as monkey pod / Pithecellobium saman


bowl blanks listed as monkey pod / Pithecellobium saman


two views of a bowl blank listed as raintree


turning stock listed as monkey pod / Pithecellobium saman


monkey pod crotches


bookmatched monkey pod crotches


crotch listed as raintree and with a color that is WAY too bright even if it has a finishing agent on it.


bowl blank and pen blanks listed as monkey pod / Pithecellobium saman


monkey pod bowl blanks


monkey pod veneer


bowl listed as Samanea saman, which is one of the many woods that take the common name monkey pod


monkey pod bowl


bowls listed as Hawaiian monkey pod


monkey pod, listed as a table top, this seems more like a bench top


monkey pod pepper mill


guitar set listed as Pithecellobium saman


monkey pod hollow forms


various faces, including the bottom, of a hollow form listed as monkey pod. It appears to be mostly sapwood with a glossy finish.


guitar front just listed as monkey pod


guitar back listed as monkey pod / Pithecellobium saman