Many centuries ago, Greeks and Romans had a good reason to use it, and so did Colonial furniture makers who later went full steam on cherry cabinetry. Cherry wood has a spectacular, unique beauty that instantly warms up your space. So you are not alone when your eyes seem to glue themselves to that cherry wood sample: you simply have an excellent eye for all things beautiful.
There are several types of cherry wood: American, Brazilian, African, and Bolivian among others. The first two are the most common ones in flooring projects. Despite their name, American and Brazilian cherry woods come from two different species of trees, so they have different characteristics. What brings them together is their beauty that puts them in a category of their own. The warm, red tinges of cherry wood dress up a space like no other.
Cherry wood has lots of personality, shown in the dramatic color variation. In fact, the color can differ from plank to plank, which makes this wood striking but more challenging to arrange into a beautifully flowing design.The wood continues to change after it made it to you floors. It has a tendency to darken over time, even more than other species.
American cherry (Prunus serotina) starts with a light brown color with slight pink hues, but it gets darker over time and achieves deep golden brown tones and a reddish brown patina. Part of its charm comes from the character of its delicate grain and beautiful patterns that come through even more beautifully when using wide planks. In planks 5 inches or wider, cherry wood can show decades of growth, taking your floors to a whole new level of beauty.
Occasional gum deposits and pin knots give the wood even more charm. American cherry wood has a fine, close grain and sands well to a very smooth, satin-like surface. It is a highly workable wood but it poses a few challenges when taking the stain because of the difference in its grain density. In terms of hardness, American cherry is somehow modest: it ranks 950 on the Janka scale. This puts it in the easier-to-dent category and means your floors will need some special care. It is best not to use American cherry in areas that take a lot of abuse.
Immensely popular among exotic woods, Brazilian cherry comes from the jatoba species (Hymenaea courbaril). It is unrelated to the American cherry, with which it only shares a (now) confusing name. Unlike its American namesake, Brazilian cherry wood rates an excellent 2820 on the Janka hardness scale. It is one of the most durable woods, twice as hard as red oak, which makes it a great choice for high-traffic areas. It is highly resistant to rot and to insect attacks.
With Brazilian cherry wood, color variation reaches new levels of drama. The deep reddish-brown hues turn to bright orange from one plank or cardboard to another. This color variation makes Brazilian cherry mosaics absolutely spectacular. In addition, the gradual deepening of the color into rich auburn tones (caused by exposure to light) can turn your floors into veritable pieces of art. Brazilian cherry wood is often left unstained because of its inherent beauty and its tendency to mature into luxurious, deep colors.
Keep in mind this color variation when looking at Brazilian cherry samples. The color you get may be dramatically different. If you like the look of evenly toned floors, this wood may not be your best option. However, if you are looking for floors that speak of the beauty of nature, Brazilian cherry does it best.
If you choose Brazilian cherry, remember that the color change is visible and, during the first stages, fairly fast. Move around your rugs and furniture to allow all the wood to age evenly, then enjoy its unique luster and glow.