One look at a highly figured piece of Brosimum guianense and it is clear to see why it’s called Snakewood. Snakewood’s dramatic specks and splotches bear a close resemblance to the skin of a snake. Such figuring can be so pronounced that it has been compared to the writing of hieroglyphics, and is sometimes called Letterwood.
In addition to its colorful figure, Snakewood is also among the densest and hardest of all wood species worldwide. Among woodworkers, it vies with Lignum Vitae as the heaviest wood in the world. Only the heartwood was desired; a tree 12 inches in diameter and perhaps 80 feet tall yielded only about 3 inches of heartwood. The work involved in harvesting this wood was prohibitive, making snakewood very desirable.