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What is Argentine Lignum Vitae?

Argentine Lignum Vitae is . . . well, not exactly Lignum Vitae. Allow us to explain. The wood popularly known as “Lignum Vitae” is, in fact, technically called “Genuine Lignum Vitae” (Guaiacum officinale). Genuine Lignum Vitae is quite famous for being “the densest wood in the world” — it ranks atop the “Janka Scale of Hardness,” which measures such things. The wood is also believed to have medicinal properties in its resins and chips; “Lignum Vitae” is, after all, Latin for “Wood of Life.” Unfortunately, because of Genuine Lignum Vitae’s highly desirable properties, the wood has been grossly over-harvested and is now possibly on the endangered species list. Although some Genuine Lignum Vitae is still available on the market, it is no longer being sold in any significant quantities. That’s where Argentine Lignum Vitae (Bulnesia sarmientoi) comes in. Although it’s not genetically related to Genuine Lignum Vitae, it has become widely used as a substitute wood due to its similar appearance and characteristics to the “genuine” variety (i.e., it’s extremely hard, heavy, dense, strong, and durable). With an average specific gravity of about 1.10, the wood will sink in water. Because of its incredible density and strength, Argentine Lignum Vitae is often applied in making mallets and clubs.

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