Because palo chino (gumbo-limbo) tolerates widely different
growing conditions, the wood can be quite variable. Like eastern cottonwood,
it has a medium to fine texture, but its yellowish-beige heartwood is slightly
darker and more lustrous. The sapwood tends to be creamy white just inside
the bark and gradually darkens as it blends into the
heartwood. It is a weak wood and compares closely with aspen.
While palo chino lacks the pleasant figure and warm tan color
of butternut, these two woods are remarkably similar in terms of working
characteristics. Both tend to become a little fuzzy when sanded, but are
otherwise exceptionally easy to work. For such a soft wood, palo chino turns
well and accepts both screws and nails without splitting. Although the wood
has a faint, resinous scent when sanded, it is surprisingly
non-aromatic considering its botanical kinship to frankincense and myrrh.
The primary uses of palo chino include interior construction, crating, boxes, construction plywoods, corestock and match sticks. Some is harvested for charcoal
production, and its resins and oils have been used for centuries as incense and in making varnish, adhesives and medicines.