Brazil Wood, the name given to several varieties of red dyewood, brought from South America, Central America, and the West Indies. The genuine Brazil wood, sometimes called Pernambuco wood, is brought from tho province of this name in Brazil. The tree is known as the cmsalpinia crista. Other varieties are the braziletto (the most inferior kind of Brazil wood), from the West Indies, the product of the C. Brasiliensis; the sapan, or sampfen wood, of the C. sapan; and the Nicaragua or peach wood, also from a species 6f Casalpinia. It is said that the name was applied to the wood (of which there are species in the East Indies) long before the discovery of America, and that the great territory in South America was named Brazil in consequence of the abundance of the csesalpinia trees. So valuable were these considered that the wood was monopolized by the crown, and called pao da rainha, queen's wood. The tree grows to a large size, is crooked and knotty, and bears fragrant red flowers and small leaves. The wood is heavy and hard, takes a fine polish, and sinks in water. When first cut it is pale, but the red color deepens on exposure. The heaviest qualities are preferred.
By boiling Brazil wood, reduced to powder, in water, the wood becomes black, while the water receives the red coloring principle, which is a crystallizable substance, named braziline. Long-continued boiling extracts it all; but a deeper red is imparted to alcohol or ammonia. The dye is improved by standing a few weeks, even if it ferments. At the best, however, it is not permanent; the colors are fixed only by a preparation of the articles to be dyed, which consists in impregnating them with suitable mordants, as alum and tartrate of potash.. Acids and alkalies affect differently the shades of color of the dye; the former making it more yellow and permanent, and the latter deepening the hue to purple and violet shades. Brazil wood has been somewhat superseded by a dyewood of superior quality called camwood, supposed to be the product of the taphia nitida, which grows in Africa, and is obtained at Sierra Leone. It was formerly supposed that there were some medicinal properties in Brazil wood; it was observed to have a sweet taste, and to stain the saliva red, and it was made an ingredient in some prescriptions. It is now used in pharmacy only to color tinctures.
Red ink is prepared from it by boiling the wood in water, and adding a little gum and alum; it is also used to make a lake-red paint. Paper saturated with it is used in chemical analyses as a test for sulphurous acid, by which it is bleached; also for fluorine, which turns it yellow.
Brazil Wood - Leaves, Flower, and Fruit.