brazilwood, common name for several trees of the family Leguminosae (pulse family) whose wood yields a red dye. The dye has largely been replaced by synthetic dyes for fabrics, but it is still used in high-quality red inks. The bright red wood, which takes a high polish, is used in cabinetwork and for making violin bows. The East Indian redwood, or sapanwood ( Caesalpinia sappan ), was called "bresel wood" when it was first imported to Europe in the Middle Ages; Portuguese explorers used this name for a similar South American tree ( C. echinata ), from which the name Brazil for its native country purportedly derives. The latter species has been severely depleted in its native range, and international trade in the raw wood is now regulated. Brazilwoods are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.