Pterocarpus

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Pterocarpus is a pantropical genus of trees in the family Fabaceae, most of which yield valuable timber traded as padauk (or padouk); other common names are mukwa or narra. The scientific name is Latinized Ancient Greek and means "wing fruit", referring to the unusual shape of the seed pods in this genus.

Uses

Padauk wood is obtained from several species of Pterocarpus. All padauks are of African or Asian origin. Padauks are valued for their toughness, stability in use, and decorativeness, most having a reddish wood. Most Pterocarpus woods contain either water- or alcohol-soluble substances and can be used as dyes.

The padauk found most often in the timber trade is African Padauk from Pterocarpus soyauxii which, when freshly cut, is a very bright red but when exposed to sunlight fades over time to a warm brown. Its colour makes it a favourite among woodworkers. Burmese Padauk is Pterocarpus macrocarpus while Andaman Padauk is Pterocarpus dalbergioides. Padauks can be confused with rosewoods to which they are somewhat related, but as a general rule padauks are coarser and less decorative in figure.

Some padauks, e.g. P. soyauxii, are used as herbal medicines, for example to treat skin parasites and fungal infections.[1]

Species

A total of 35 species are currently accepted:[2]

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