Species influences appearance and durability. Not all species of hardwood are equally hard. If your floor is likely to take a lot of abuse, consider oak, maple, or ash, for extra durability. For appearance, traditional oak has pronounced variations in grain and shade, while maple's grain is cleaner and more understated. Today, there are many exotic species available, such as lapacho, tigerwood, and Brazilian cherry, that have a distinctive combination of origin, color and surface characteristics.