A tropical wood found in South America, Ipé is a slow growing wood known for its strength and durability, especially when it comes to deckings. It is also known for its colour, somewhat similar to mahogany.
– Whilst FSC does certify Ipé, there are concerns that the certification NGO is less strict in rainforest settings and more subjective than objective in practice, (ref) with claims that if the same rules of European FSC was utilised in the Amazon, no Amazonian companies would be allowed to extract wood.
– Being grown in South America, to get Ipé to the UK will use a lot of energy, potentially impacting the environment negatively through CO2 emissions.
– The trees naturally grow at low densities, meaning that a lot of forest needs to be cleared in order to harvest the valuable timber. (ref)
This tropical wood is extremely strong and durable which makes it good for gardening purposes, with the wood potentially lasting 50 years. However, the wood isn’t very sustainable, the tree grows at low densities, which means the forest is destroyed to access the valuable timber. Whilst FSC certification is possible in forests and plantations, there are concerns that certification in rainforests are not as strict as elsewhere in the world and due to this, the sustainable management schemes for the forest may not be as effective as other places in the world. Due to its impacts on the world’s rainforests and the uncertainty behind its certification, Ipé should be avoided or gained from a recycled source. Sustainably sourced Oak, Cedar or Acacia could replace Ipé, but for durability, Composite wood could serve as a replacement, although there are always concerns with a plastic-wood hybrid, such as biodegradability.
It may be worth considering the fact that most UK gardens seem to be replaced within 20-30 years, be that through redesign or a new homeowner altering the garden. If a garden will be replaced in a short period of time, it may not be worth using longer-lasting materials that will not be able to live out their full potential, and a more sustainable, faster growing, and faster degrading wood may be applicable, such as a species of Pine.