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White Poisonwood / Sebastiana tuerckheimiana

Local Names
Reventadillo, White Poisonwood, Ridge Poisonwood.
Distribution & Tree

Not to be confused with chechen negro (Metopium brownei, also known as Black Poisonwood), chechen blanco is also native to Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico, predominantly occurring on plains or hillsides, generally on limestone in low-lying regions 350 meters or less. Tree reaches up to 40 m in height and trunk diameters of 45 cm. The species exudes a caustic white latex from leaves, branches and trunk (hence its local name of White Poisonwood).

Wood Appearance
Pinkish white with dark brown specks. Takes a high polish. Medium texture and straight grain.
Processing Properties
Sawing, planing and moulding are excellent and easy. Dimensional movement is small to medium. The milky latex is poisonous in contact with skin, causing irritation and eruption, and precaution should be taken when working with trees and green material.
Strength & Durability
High basic density, high bending stiffness and strength, and medium hardness.
Wood Uses
Exterior construction, frames, panels, interior mouldings, stair rails and treads, utility furniture, and woodcraft items.
Ecological & Social Importance
The ancient Maya used chechen blanco for construction, fuel and medicine. The tree was among the most frequently encountered species in the paleoethnobotanical remains in Mayan site of Tikal, dating from the Classic period, despite not being dominant in the modern forest in the region.
Reference Species with Similar Density & Hardness
Technical CharacteristicsChechen BlancoRed CedarBlack Walnut
Janka Hardnesskgf433408458
Bending Stiffness (Modulus of Elasticity)GPa12.46.111.6
Bending Strength (Modulus of Rupture)MPa81.260.7100.7
Crushing StrengthMPa27.541.552.3
Shrinkage, Radial%3.3%3.1%5.5%
Shrinkage, Tangential%7.2%4.7%7.8%
Shrinkage, Volumetric%10.5%7.8%12.8%
T/R Ratio2.21.51.4
Values determined at 12% humidity - Provided for reference only







Values are for reference only and cannot be guaranteed. Wood is a natural material and physical and mechanical properties may vary depending on age, genetics, and other factors. We encourage customers to consult the references provided in the bibliography. For further explanations of wood’s key technical characteristics, an excellent resource is the Wood Database with articles on Density (average dried weight); Janka hardness; Elastic Modulus; Rupture Modulus; Crushing Strength; Radial, Tangential and Volumetric Shrinkage.

ReferencesView Source
“Investigación e Ingeniería de la Madera.” Revista del Laboratorio de Mecánica de la Madera. Volumen 10, Número 3, Diciembre 2014.
AMR20. “Day 6: The Poisonwood Tree.” EBIO 319: Tropical Biology. Rice University. 21 May 2019.
Appendix 1.1 Species in Three Maya Forests. “Time and Complexity in Historical Ecology.” Balee, W. and Erickson, C.L Eds. Columbia University Press. 2006.
Echenique-Manrique, R. and R.A. Plumptre. "A Guide to the Use of Mexican and Belizean Timbers." Tropical Forestry Papers 20. 1990.
Sotomayor Castellanos, Javier-Ramón & Pérez, Mariana. (2013). Densidad y características higroscópicas de maderas mexicanas. Base de datos y criterios de clasificación. Investigación e Ingeniería de la Madera. 3-29.
Standley, PC. Williams, LO. Gibson, DN. "Flora of Guatemala." Volume 24. Field Museum of Natural History. 1974.
Thompson, Kim. “Biodiversity in Forests of the Ancient Maya Lowlands and Genetic Variation in a Dominant Tree Manilkara zapota (Sapotaceae): Ecological and Anthropogenic Implications.” Dissertation presented at University of Cincinnati. 2013.