Macaranduba Decking

A new wood is rapidly replacing the traditional Balau used for decking outdoor areas. This wood is sourced from the Manilkara bidentata tree, a species of Manilkara native to a large area of northern South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Common names include balata, ausubo and this wood is known in South Africa by one of its other common names: Macaranduba / Massaranduba.

The Balata is a large tree growing to 30-45m tall with alternate, elliptical leaves about 10-20cm long. The flowers are white and are produced at the beginning of the rainy season. The fruit is an edible yellow berry, 3-5cm in diameter containing one or two seeds. Natural latex is made from its sap.

Balata trees are farmed along the banks of the Amazon River and its tributaries and is the most important timber tree in the area as it is used by the locals for furniture and as a construction material.

The wood itself is hardwood with a red heart, and is so dense that it does not float in water. The locals often refer to it as bulletwood for its hardness and drilling is necessary to drive nailed connections.

The wood has more of a redish-brown colouring to it, and when sealed effectively with wood preserve the wood has a rich brown dark colour to it. If left to natural elements, the wood dries to a light grey colour over a period of a few years. Macaranduba is dense and hard and therefore as it dries differently, it warps and splinters less than its popular counterpart Balau.

Interestingly, Balata was often used in the production of high-quality golf balls – as the outer layer of the ball. Balata-covered balls have a high spin rate, but unfortunately do not travel as far as most surlyn-covered balls. While once favoured by professional and low-handicap players, the balata-covered balls are now obsolete, replaced by newer surlyn and urethane technology.