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Swietenia macrophylla - King

Common Name Big Leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany
Family Meliaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Found in all forest types, from the edge of the pine savannah to the climax rainforest, but mostly in mixed hardwood forest belts, along riverbanks, on deep alluvial soils of considerable fertility[303 ].
Range S. America - Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, north through Central America to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Swietenia macrophylla Big Leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany

Swietenia macrophylla Big Leaf Mahogany, Honduras Mahogany
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Swietenia macrophylla, otherwise known as Big Leaf Mahogany or Honduras Mahogany, is a slow-growing, tall, tropical tree reaching a height of about 40-60 m. Often buttressed, the trunk is covered with gray and cracked bark. The crown is large, open, and round. The bole is straight, cylindrical, buttressed, and can be up to 120 cm in diameter. The leaves are compound. The flowers are small, white or green, and form into clusters. The fruits are brown capsules with large and winged seeds. Big Leaf Mahogany is commonly grown throughout South America particularly in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Central America, and Mexico. Various medicinal uses of this plant has been reported. The bark is used to treat diarrhea and fever. The tree is not cultivated for food for no plant part is edible. Else, it is used in reforestation projects or as a shade tree in plantation crops. Crushed fruit shells are used as a potting medium. The bark produces gums, and used for dyeing and tanning leather. Seed kernels yield oil which is very bitter and purgative. The wood is valued for high quality woodwork and furniture, musical instruments, veneer, etc. Other common names include mahogany, Honduran mahogany, and West Indian mahogany.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Swietenia macrophylla is an evergreen Tree growing to 35 m (114ft) by 35 m (114ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Swietenia belizensis Lundell Swietenia candollei Pittier Swietenia krukovii Gleason Swietenia tessma

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Gum

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Astringent  Bitter  Febrifuge

Various medicinal uses of parts of the tree are reported from Central America[303 ]. The bark is astringent, bitter and febrifuge[299 ]. An infusion is used to treat diarrhoea and fevers[337 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Furniture  Gum  Pioneer  Plant breeding  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Within its native range, big leaf mahogany is among the pioneer species that reoccupy degraded agricultural land. It has been used in reforestation projects and has proved to be suitable in areas not protected from grazing[303 ]. It is used as a shade tree, for example, for cacao, coffee and young plantations of dipterocarps[303 , 418 ]. When young, it can be used as an under-crop for teak (Tectona grandis), where its ability to facilitate heavy thinning of the latter without exposing the soil to the risk of serious desiccation and erosion, is quite promising and worth great consideration[303 ]. In Puerto Rico, farmers have planted it among subsistence crops such as corn, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes and cassava[303 ]. The crushed fruit shells have been used as a potting medium[299 , 303 ]. Other Uses A gum is produced from cuts in the bark[299 , 303 ]. It is marketed in both pure form and mixed with other gums[303 ]. The bark is used for dyeing and tanning leather[299 , 303 ]. An oil, which is very bitter and purgative, can be extracted from the seed kernels[299 ]. It might be of some commercial value[303 , 418 ]. The heartwood is reddish, pinkish, salmon coloured, or yellowish when fresh; deepening with age to deep rich red or brown; it is distinctly demarcated from theup to 40mm wide band of yellowish or whitish sapwood. The lustre is high and golden; the texture rather fine to coarse; the grain straight to roey, wavy, or curly, often with an attractive figure[316 ]. The dense wood is of medium weight, it is reasonably durable, but it is not considered suitable for applications in contact with the ground. It seasons well, without much checking or distortion. The wood is easy to work using hand tools; it finishes to a smooth surface; gluing and nailing properties are good, but discoloration in contact with iron, copper and brass may occur under humid conditions; it acquires a good polish and does not crack or bend, making it valuable in the manufacture of quality furniture. The attractive wood is particularly valued for high-class furniture and cabinet work, it has also been used in interior panelling, joinery work, turnery, plywood and heavy construction work. Its outstanding technical qualities make it particularly suitable for precision woodwork such as models and patterns, instrument cases, clocks, printer?s blocks and parts of musical instruments[299 , 303 , 316 , 325 , 337 ]. Veneer quality is limited by colour variation, wavy grain, pin knots and pinhole borer damage[303 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the wet tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,500 metres, but grows best below 600 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 30°c, but can tolerate 11 - 39°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 2,000 - 4,000mm, but tolerates 1,400 - 6,000mm[418 ]. Young trees require at least light shade and are fairly tolerant to dense shade, but conditions for optimum growth of older trees call for full overhead light combined with side protection[303 , 418 ]. Grows best on well-drained, fertile sites with medium to heavy soils[303 , 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5, tolerating 6 - 8.5[418 ]. The tree is reported to be very firm in the wind, and resistant to cyclones[303 ]. The species has some weed potential and may invade native forest communities, especially following disturbance. It should not be planted in close proximity to areas of high nature conservation significance[303 ]. Flowering and fruiting are distinctly seasonal. Fruit may be produced once a year, and trees start to produce fruit regularly when about 15 years old. Seeds have a thin, tail-like wing that makes them rotate when they fall; they are thus dispersed by wind as far as 500 metres from the parent tree[303 ]. In natural stands it is beneficial to open the canopy over dense, young regeneration in which saplings are about 1.8 metres high[303 ]. In plantation forestry, the tree has always been planted at 10 x 3 metres (333 stems/ha), because it requires large amounts of light. Plantations established at such wide spacing rarely need thinning unless selectively to remove diseased stems. The tree is self-pruning and further pruning is not necessary[303 ]. When grown for timber, The tree has a rotation age of 30 - 35 years, with a final stocking rate of 150 - 250 stems/ha[303 ]. This species hybridizes with S. macrophylla and S. Mahagoni. Hybridization has been confirmed by cytological studies[303 ]. Flowering Time: Evergreen Deciduous Smooth-Textured Shiny/Glossy-Textured. Bloom Color: Pale Yellow Pale Green Inconspicuous/none. Spacing: 30-40 ft. (9-12 m) over 40 ft. (12 m) .

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - no pre-treatment is required, but stored seed will germinate more rapidly if soaked in warm water for 12 hours prior to sowing[325 ]. Seed can be sown in nursery beds or containers, covering the seed with 3cm of soil[325 ]. Germination of fresh seed normally commences 10 - 17 days after sowing, and the germination rate is high at over 90%[303 ]. The seedlings are kept under shade until planting out, which can take place when they are about 50 - 100 cm tall[325 ]. Viability can be maintained for at least 1 year in hermetic storage. No loss in viability occurs after storage for 7 months at 12°c, but only 2.5% of seeds germinated following 2 years of hermetic storage with dry seeds at 3 -5°c[303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Honduran mahogany, mahogany - English, aguano - Portuguese (Brazil), araputanga -Portuguese (Brazil), caóba - Portuguese (Brazil), cedro-í - Portuguese (Brazil), mogno - Portuguese (Brazil), mogno-brasileiro - Portuguese (Brazil), caoba - Spanish, mara - Spanish (Bolivia), aguano - Spanish (Peru), hondurasmahogny - Swedish. Mahogani, aguano, araputanga, big leaf mahogany, big-leaf mahogany, caoba, caóba, cedro-í, gaúbana, honduran mahogany, honduras mahogany, hondurasmahogny, mahogany, mara, mogno, mogno-brasileiro, unsubu, yulu.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational State of; Colombia; Costa Rica; Dominica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Peru; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Brazil, Africa, Andamans, Asia, Australia, Central America, China, Costa Rica, Haiti, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, North America, Pakistan, Panama, SE Asia, South America, Sri Lanka,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

The species has some weed potential and may invade native forest communities, especially following disturbance. It should not be planted in close proximity to areas of high nature conservation significance[303 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Vulnerable A1cd+2cd

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Chloroxylon swieteniaEast Indian SatinwoodTree18.0 10-12 FLMHNM034
Swietenia mahagoniMahogany, West Indies MahoganyTree25.0 10-12 FMHNM025

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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