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Swietenia mahagoni - (L.) Jacq.

Common Name Mahogany, West Indies Mahogany
Family Meliaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Pastures, along the sides of roads, rare in natural woodland[426 ].
Range Southeastern N. America - Florida, to the Caribbean.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Swietenia mahagoni Mahogany, West Indies Mahogany

Swietenia mahagoni Mahogany, West Indies Mahogany


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Swietenia mahagoni or Mahogany is an evergreen or briefly deciduous tree commonly found in Southeastern part of North America. It grows up to 30-35 m tall with a large, round crown and short bole that can be up to 100 cm in diameter. The leaves are pinnate with four to eight leaflets each. The flowers are small and produced in panicles. The fruits are woody capsule containing plenty of winged seeds. No plant part is edible. Decoction of the stem bark is taken orally against diarrhea and dysentery, and used to induce hemorrhage. Bark decoction is used externally to dress wounds caused by firearms. Though often used as a shade tree, Mahogany is also used primarily for its high-quality wood. It is medium-weight, highly durable, resistant to most wood-rotting fungi, and easy to work. It is used commonly for high-quality furniture, joinery, boars, carvings, musical instruments, etc. Seeds yield oil which has commercial uses.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Swietenia mahagoni is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Moths, Thrips. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cedrela mahagoni L. Cedrus mahogani Mill. Swietenia acutifolia Stokes Swietenia fabrilis Salisb.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antibacterial  Antidiarrhoeal  Antiseptic  Appetizer  Astringent  Dysentery  Febrifuge

The stem bark is considered to be antiseptic, astringent and febrifuge[303 , 348 ]. It is taken orally as a decoction for diarrhoea and dysentery, as a source of vitamins and iron, and as a medicine to induce haemorrhage. When the bark is steeped to a red liquid, it is taken to clear the blood, increase appetite, and restore strength in cases of tuberculosis[303 , 348 ]. A decoction of the bark is used externally to dress wounds caused by firearms[348 ]. Methanol extracts of the bark showed inhibitory activity on HIV-1 protease[299 ]. Ether extracts of seeds inhibited platelet aggregation, probably due to the presence of tetranortriterpenoids[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Furniture  Plant breeding  Tannin  Wood

Shade tree. Street tree. Public open space. Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: Farmers generally plant the species along garden boundaries or around the courtyard, where it provides deep shade[303 ]. The tree is used in reforestation projects, as a shade tree in young plantations of other timber species and as a shade tree in coffee and cacao plantations[299 , 418 ]. Other Uses An oil can be extracted from the seed kernels which might be of some commercial value[299 ]. The bark is a source of tannins and has been used for dyeing[299 ]. The crushed fruit shells have been used as a potting medium[299 ]. The heartwood is reddish or pinkish, the colour darkening with age to a deep red or brown; it is distinctly demarcated from the up to 40mm wide band of usually yellowish sapwood. The grain is interlocked, sometimes straight; texture fine to moderately coarse; surfaces are glossy, and the wood is often nicely figured because of the irregular grain. The wood is medium-weight, comparatively soft, very durable, but not considered suitable for applications in contact with the ground. Graveyard tests in Indonesia showed an average service life in contact with the ground of 3.3 years. The wood is resistant to most, but not all, wood-rotting fungi, and is liable to termite attack. The wood seasons well, without much checking or distortion and kiln dries satisfactorily when moderate schedules are used. Rates of shrinkage are low and uniform, after drying it is stable in service. It saws, planes and moulds easily in both green and dry condition; in general it finishes to an exceptionally smooth, lustrous surface, but a woolly surface may occur on bands of reaction wood or interlocked grain; finishing is easy and the wood takes an excellent polish, gluing and nailing properties are good, but discoloration in contact with iron, copper and brass may occur under humid conditions. The wood slices and rotary cuts into fine and decorative veneer, without preliminary treatment, at a peeling angle of 92?. The wood is therefore the choice for high-quality furniture and cabinetwork, joinery, boats and pattern work. Wood carvers use a significant amount of the wood in turnery and sculpture[303 ]. The wood's 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; for these purposes, uniform straight-grained material is used. Other minor uses include burial caskets, novelties and expensive toys[299 ]. In Haiti, much of the branch wood and most of the crooked stems are converted to charcoal, particularly in regions isolated from urban markets by poor roads[303 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the moist to humid tropics, where it is found at elevations from 50 - 1,500 metres[303 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 24 - 32°c, but can tolerate 16 - 36°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 800 - 2,500mm[418 ]. The best development of the trees has been observed in areas receiving the lower rainfall range of 1,000 - 1,500 mm, in localities not far from the sea, and at elevations near sea level[303 ]. Young plants grow best in dappled shade, requiring more light as they grow larger[303 ]. The plant thrives best on deep, rich soil and avoids stiff, heavy soils in the wild; well-drained sandy soils are best[303 ]. It is a complete failure in dry localities and poor soils[303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.5 - 8[418 ]. Young trees have straight and slender stems, and branches are formed 2 - 3 metres above the ground with a position oblique to the main stem. Initial growth is fast, depending on site conditions[299 ]. Flowering and fruiting are regular and annual, varying according to climate but taking place shortly before the rainy season. The tree fruits well and produces fertile seeds, sometimes as early as at 20 years of age, although usually it does not seed until it is 30-40 years old[303 ]. Seed production varies according to site and year[303 ]. This species hybridizes with S. Macrophylla and S. Mahagoni. Hybridization has been confirmed by cytological studies[303 ]. Flowering Time: Late Winter/Early Spring. Bloom Color: White/Near White. Spacing: 20-30 ft. (6-9 m).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a short viability and is best sown as soon as ripe[303 ]. Sow in a nursery seedbed with some overhead shade. The seed wing should be broken, since this facilitates germination[303 ]. Healthy seeds start germinating about 15 days after sowing[299 ]. When the seedlings are 3 - 4 weeks old, remove the overhead shade, giving only lateral shade[299 ]. In Java and Haiti, where abundant natural regeneration is found under trees and in the vicinity of almost all the older plantations, most farmers use wildlings for planting material[303 ]. Without any special treatment, seeds lose much of their viability in 3 months and almost entirely in 6 months[303 ]. Dried in the sun and sealed in airtight containers, they remain fairly viable for over 6 months[303 ]. Viability can be maintained in hermetic air-dry storage at room temperature for 1 year[303 ]. Cuttings from plants up to 3 years old are usua;;y successful, but do not work well from older plants[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here


Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Cayman Islands; Colombia; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Jamaica; Martinique; Montserrat; Saint Bathélemy; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of

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.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Endangered A1cd

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Chloroxylon swieteniaEast Indian SatinwoodTree18.0 10-12 FLMHNM034
Swietenia macrophyllaBig Leaf Mahogany, Honduras MahoganyTree35.0 10-12 SMHNM025

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.


Expert comment


(L.) Jacq.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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