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African Ebony

Wood Flooring Species

Scientific Name:

Diospyros spp.

Other Names and Species:

Kukuo (Gambia)
Msindi (Tanzania)
Nyareti (Nigeria)
Omenowa (Ghana)


Equatorial West Africa. This species is not to be confused with Brazilian Ebony (Swartzia tomentosa), which comes from South America.


When freshly cut, the sapwood of African ebony is pink-colored, but darkens to a pale red brown; whereas the heartwood shows a uniform jet-black or black-brown color, sometimes with streaks. Ebony has a very fine texture, with the grain ranging from straight to slightly interlocked, or even moderately curly. The luster of this wood may have an almost metallic appearance.


An attractive and popular wood with many decorative uses, ebony is notably hard, heavy, and strong, and also very resistant to termite attack.

Janka Hardness: 3220

Ebony is an incredibly hard and durable wood flooring choice. It is over two-thirds harder than merbau, roughly one hundred and twenty-two percent harder than hard maple, over ninety-seven percent harder than wenge, and just over forty-six percent harder than santos mahogany’s ranking of 2200.


This highly durable wood is difficult to work with either machine or hand tools, due to its extreme hardness; and, as any contractor or builder can tell you, it has a pronounced dulling effect on tool edges. It usually requires pre-drilling to nail or screw. However, it finishes to a naturally dark and polished surface. Note that prolonged exposure to ebony sawdust may cause dermatitis.

Principal Uses:

Besides being used in hardwood flooring and inlaid work, ebony can be found in piano keys and other musical instruments, cutlery and tool handles, decorative carvings, and turnery.

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