American Cherry Hardwood vs Brazilian Cherry Hardwood

While most homeowners have probably heard of “cherry hardwood flooring,” what they may not know is that there are two main species to choose from, and the thing they have in common the most is their name.

With two wood species, named “Cherry;” You may be wondering, “How different can they be?”  The answer: Completely.

Genus, Species and Name

We’ll start with their names – Our first species is the domestic “American Cherry,” also known as “Black cherry, “its scientific name is “Prunus serotine.”    The second cherry wood is the exotic species “Brazilian cherry,” also known as “Jatoba,” whose scientific name is “Hymenaea courbaril.”  Even though they are both named cherry, their species aren’t actually related.

Janka Rating

Next, we’ll compare their hardness ratings.  The Janka scale is what is most commonly used to compare the strength of one wood species to another.  While the Domestic American Cherry scores a 950 on the Janka scale, making it one of the softer woods used for flooring, the exotic Brazilian Cherry, just so happens to be one of the hardest woods used for flooring with a Janka rating around 2700! To put it into perspective, Red Oak, who has a Janka of 1290, is most commonly used as a benchmark to compare other wood species, simply because it is the most common wood used here in the northeast.  As you can see, American Black Cherry is actually softer than Red Oak, and Brazilian Cherry is just more than twice as hard as Red Oak.  You can now start to see the real differences between the two similarly named wood species.  Just imagine you walk into a big box store, asking for a cherry floor, expecting to receive a dense and durable wood floor, unbeknownst to you, you end up with the much softer American Black cherry wood!  By the time you realize it’s the wrong one, it would be too late.  Here at The Couture Floor Company, we go out of our way to make sure mistakes like that simply don’t happen.  We’re dedicated to giving each of our clients the flooring of their dreams, which means the most durable option as well as the most aesthetically pleasing.

Country of Origin

Next, we’ll compare the two species’ origin.  Being that one species is Domestic to North America, it is more commonly available and therefore less expensive due to shipping.  American Black Cherry grows natively in Eastern North America, from Eastern Canada to southern Quebec and Ontario.   Brazilian Cherry, on the other hand, is an exotic to the North American continent, and is found in South America; mainly Brazil and Peru.  It’s also grown in some parts of Mexico.


One of the differences that stand out the most between these two species is probably their appearance.  American Cherry is a lighter color that will have variations of blond with some red and brown tones. Brazilian Cherry, on the other hand, is a much deeper color with variations including red, browns and some lighter yellow/blond pieces.  However, in American Cherry, the color difference between its heart-wood and sap-wood is much more minimal compared to the much more drastic difference between Brazilian Cherry’s heart-wood and sap-wood colors.  This makes the overall color of American Cherry much milder and having less variation.  Brazilian Cherry hardwood flooring has a greater amount of contrast between the boards, especially when it’s brand new flooring.  After oxidation occurs over time, the colors will darken and kind of blend together more, taking away some of that color variation.  Another difference in their appearance is what the graining looks like.  Granted, the look of the graining is greatly determined by how the lumber was cut (ex. Flat sawn, rift and quartered, etc.)  But in general, the graining of American Black Cherry boasts soft waves and curls in addition to many straight and clean boards.  The graining of Brazilian Cherry is tight and straight, and some pieces look similar to that of Brazilian Teak (Cumaru).  There are minimal swirls and wavy patterns, however, remember, each tree is unique unto itself, and hardwood is a natural and non-uniform material.  There are always exceptions.

Both American Black Cherry and the Exotic Brazilian Cherry hardwood are available in solid hardwood flooring and engineered hardwood flooring.

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