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Balata (Manilkara bidentata), also known as Ausubo, Massaranduba, or (ambiguously) "cow-tree", is a species of Manilkara native to a large area of northern South America, Central America and the Caribbean. It is also the natural latex made from its sap.
Balata is a large tree growing to 30-45 m tall. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, entire, and 10-20 cm long. The flowers are white, and are produced at the beginning of the rainy season. The fruit is a yellow berry, 3-5 cm in diameter, which is edible; it contains one (occasionally two) seed(s).
The latex is extracted in the same manner in which sap is extracted from the rubber tree. It is then dried to form an inelastic rubber-like material. It is almost identical to gutta-percha (produced from a closely related southeast Asian tree), and is sometimes called gutta-balata.
Balata was often used in the production of high-quality golf balls, to use as the outer layer of the ball. Balata-covered balls have a high spin rate, but do not travel as far as most balls with a Surlyn cover. Due to the non-durable nature of the material that the golf club strikes, Balata-covered balls do not last long before needing to be replaced. While once favored by professional and low-handicapped players, they are now obsolete, replaced by newer Surlyn and urethane technology.
Balata trees are farmed along the banks of the Amazon River and its tributaries, such as the Ica. It is also the most important timber tree on Puerto Rico.
The tree is a hardwood with a red heart, which is used for furniture and as a construction material where it grows. Locals often refer to it as bulletwood for its extremely hard wood, which is so dense that it does not float in water. Pre-drilling is necessary to drive nailed connections. In trade, it is occasionally (and incorrectly) called "brazilwood").
The fruit, like that of the related Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), is edible. Though its heartwood may present in a shade of purple, Manilkara bidentata should not be confused with another tropical tree widely known as "purpleheart", the Peltogyne pubescens.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Balata