What is “Purple Heart Cedar”?

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Purple heart cedar trees are a fascinating wood species cherished by craftsmen and artisans for their exceptional qualities in woodworking. This wood boasts captivating colors and unique grain patterns, but the question remains: Is it the right choice for your project, and what makes it stand out from other woods?

In this article, I’ll break down the distinctive properties of purple heart cedar, shedding light on why it has earned its reputation as a preferred material among skilled craftsmen and artisans.

What is Purple Heart Cedarwood?

These trees are wood species that belong under the softwood category. Typically, industry experts refer to it as California Incense Cedar. It features distinct foliage with golden-yellow variegation, but you’ll see it turn purple once manufacturers graft it into a rootstock.

Although purple heart cedarwood is native to California, Oregon, and Nevada, woodworkers around the country look high and low for it because of its striking purple hue and peculiar wood grain.

purple heart wood

You may not know, but these lumber pieces have high rot resistance and durability. Because of these attributes, I recommend them for projects like decking, fencing, and siding.

Does Cedar Have Purple in it?

Most of these tree species include light to medium brown color tones, except purple heart cedarwood. If you scan in today’s market, you’ll even find ones in reddish or yellowish hues more common than options with purple tints.

Eastern Red or Aromatic Cedar

Eastern red cedar trees are softwood species. Most woodworkers call it an Aromatic Cedar due to its unique scent. It’s a popular lumber option for drawer and closet linings because its aroma can keep insects away.

With remarkable resistance against rot and decay, this lumber native to North America exhibits exceptional durability. As a result, it comes as no surprise that craftsmen commonly choose it for outdoor furniture, decking, and fencing projects.

wood smell

If you inspect it closer, you’ll notice its reddish-brown hue. Its color gives it a natural aesthetic that not all wood species have.

Another reason why it’s a popular woodworking material is its easy workability. It can absorb different finishes well, and you’ll have no problem carving, shaping, or sanding these lumber pieces.

Does its Purple Tint Last?

When exposed to UV [1] light, purple heart cedarwood undergoes chemical reactions that turn it from a light brown tone to a vibrant purple color. It’s different from the purpleheart wood, to be clear. However, this tint may fade in the long run with excessive light and air exposure.

Proper care and maintenance are the only solutions if you want to preserve its purple tone. You must keep the workpiece away from direct sunlight or apply protective finishes to slow the fading.


How is it Different From Purpleheart Wood?

These materials come from different wood species. Purple heart trees are from Peltogyne spp., native to Central and South America. Meanwhile, purple heart cedarwood is from the rare cultivar of California Incense Cedar.

Although both types of wood are known for their distinctive purple hues, they vary in terms of density and durability. Purple heartwood, being a hardwood, is primarily used for crafting durable floors and furniture pieces. 

Its robust nature makes it a preferred choice for these applications. On the other hand, softwood options like purple heart cedarwood are more suited for decorative applications like paneling and trimming.

Does it Have High Woodworking Value? + Uses and Furniture

Yes, purple heart cedarwood has a high woodworking value. Besides its distinct color and grain, its ability to stand against rotting and decaying makes it an excellent material for outdoor furniture like benches, chairs, and tables.

And since it has a vibrant color tone, it can provide a striking contrast with other wooden materials. This attribute gives it an edge over other wood species for making high-end interior furniture.

purple heart cedar

Other Woods With Purple Center

Try buying osage orange or hedge apple lumber materials if you want wood pieces with similar purple hues. Although this specie initially has bright yellowish-orange heartwood, it develops a purple tint over time.

You can also consider padauk wood trees with reddish to purple-like heartwood. It’s a hardwood material native to Africa and Asia, famous for furniture, cabinetry, and flooring.


Is it rare?

No, purple heart cedar is not rare. However, these wood materials are expensive because it’s not easy to source in some regions. Most international laws regulate its distribution to prevent illegal logging and excessive harvesting. For the list of rare and exotic wood types, read this post next!

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While purple heart cedarwood isn’t common in the woodworking industry, its unique color and texture make it suitable for different projects.

It features impressive resistance to rotting, but I would like to remind you that it’s still softwood. Because of this, it’s not recommended for load-bearing workpieces or structural elements.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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