Monkeypod is an exotic tropical legume tree native to the mainland neotropics, from Mexico south to Peru and Brazil, but has been widely introduced to the Pacific islands, including the islands of Hawaiʻi. Known under a wide range of common names, such as Rain Tree or Saman, monkeypod is prized as a valuable crafts material by Hawaiian artisans and Hawaiian theme furniture collectors around the world.
Monkeypod is reported to grow in forests and at the edge of forests, alongside roads and pathways in Hawaii. It prefers well-drained fertile soils. An introduced species from South America, Monkey pod is also reported to be often planted for use as a shade tree in several parts of India, Burma, and the Andamans. Monkey pod trees growing in open areas are reported to reach a height of 100 to 125 feet (30 to 38 m), with a trunk width between 3 and 4 feet in diameter. Boles are reported to be short, thick and often crooked.
The heartwood of the monkey pod tree (i.e., the center cut portion from the monkey pod tree) is golden-brown to dark brown in color. Wood vessels contain shiny, brown deposits, and comprise this extremely durable and exotic tropical wood.The grain of monkeypod is wavy, and often interlocked. It is this fine wood that is usually hand-card and polished to make exquisite pieces of tropical furniture and tropic decor, including wood buddha statues, walking sticks, and even sea turtle and dolphin figurines.
The bending strength of the monkey pod species is considered medium, being much weaker than white oak or teak in the air-dry condition (about 12 percent moisture content). It has medium compression strength parallel to grain, comparing favorably to Mahogany and is very hard and resistant to wearing and marring. It is also a deep, rich colored wood, favored as a leading material for creating hand-carved furniture, wooden bowls, walking sticks and tropical home decor.
Monkey pod wood comes in a delicately natural brown color. It also has a straight grain and rather coarse texture which makes it easy to carve, and it the large trunks of mature monkey tree makeis kind of wood a leading candidate for creating large wood carvings. Because of its fast-growing traits and easily replaceable, rain tree wood is the favored wood for importers outside of the tropics. Its crisscrossed interlocking grain eliminates cracking due tin dryer environment. In addition, rain tree can be finished to a fairly high gloss to further bring out its beautiful natural brown appearance.