Swietenia macrophylla (Mahogany) main species of economic and forestry interest in the family Meliaceae

in StemSocial2 months ago

This delivery, has the purpose of contributing content on one of the main approaches of the utilitarian botany, as it is the morphometric dendrology and morphology of the bark, information of vital importance for the forest exploitation of the main species of economic interest, in this opportunity we will describe the species Swietenia macrophylla (Mahogany).


Forest botany is the area of botany that studies plant species of woody biotype, through morphometric characterization, exploitation, management and conservation of tree and shrub materials that live in predominantly forest ecosystems, in order to provide reference information of the main taxonomic groups of economic and forestry interest.

Although, forest botany offers general knowledge of the main taxonomic groups of economic and forest interest, its importance as a study area is based on its practical application in Silvicultural Systems, by providing biological information for the establishment, growth and development of artificial forest ecosystems, which pursue the production of wood, pulp for paper, among others.

In this context, and considering that the main problem faced by the forestry sector is the scarce information that exists on tree and shrub materials of timber interest, the objective of this post is to socialize botanical elements related to morphometric dendrology, bark morphology, and forest exploitation of the species Swietenia macrophylla (Meliaceae).

General features

Taxonomy and distribution

Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), is a plant species of woody biotype, artificially located in the Division: Magnoliophyta., Class: Magnoliopsida., Order: Sapindales., Family: Meliaceae, Gender: Swietenia and Species: Macrophylla, with distribution area constituted in the natural eco-regions of Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Fig. 2 Juvenile Mahogany specimens - Swietenia macrophylla. Public domain image 2012 / CC BY-SA 3.0

Common names

According to [1], the Swietenia macrophylla is invariably identified as mahogany, but in Central American countries it is given a second name, namely Southern mahogany or Atlantic mahogany.

Vegetative and reproductive morphology

Leaf blades of Swietenia macrophylla, are composite and of paripinnate morphology (two leaflets at the end of the rachis), rachis without terminal growth, alternate phyllotaxy, small flowers of yellowish coloration, grouped in panicles, hermaphrodite inflorescence, fruit ovoid, slightly lignified brown, seeds light brown, winged and light with the ability to disperse by anemocoria (wind) [2].

Fig. 3 Mahogany fruits - Swietenia macrophylla. Public domain image, Author: Fred Almeida, 2016 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Edaphoclimatology of Mahogany

The specimens of Swietenia macrophylla, express their maximum potential in neotropical conditions, preferably in regions with a maximum altitude of 1,200 m.a.s.l., abundant rainfall (minimum 1,000 and maximum 4,000 mm per year), temperatures between 15 and 33°C, which exhibit humid soils, high fertility, essentially alluvial, either; clayey loam, sandy loam and pH close to 4.5 [3].

Economic and forestry interest

From the technical and commercial point of view, Swietenia macrophylla shows a wide exploitation, essentially because it represents one of the main agroforestry alternatives for the production of fine wood, mainly due to the remarkable qualities of its stems, as well as the ease of work, high resistance and operational performance during the transformation and sawing. However, it is important to highlight that the production of wood of S. macrophylla, to date continues to be extracted from natural netropical forests, as a consequence of failed attempts to establish artificial areas, whose plantations have succumbed to the attacks of the insect Hypsipyla grandella, whose perforating effect creates serious damages in the commercial stems [4] - [5].

Morphometric STEM dendrology

Morphology of the cortex

With regard to the morphology of the bark, the trunks of Swietenia macrophylla show an extremely cracked morphology, with a grey colouring in the juvenile phase, while at maturity they exhibit brown colouring in various shades, and a pleasant smell.

Fig. 4 Mahogany stem bark - Swietenia macrophylla. Public domain image, Author: Jee & Rani Nature Photography, 2009 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Morphometry of the Mahogany Stems

The commercial Mahogany tree (Swietenia macrophylla), under adequate silvicultural management, its stems can reach up to 70 m in height, with maximum diameters estimated at 3.5 m, trunks of 2 to 3 m in height, predominantly thin branching system, with deviations and upward orientation, long and straight shaft, with open crown and rounded appearance.

Fig. 5 Mahogany stem cross section - Swietenia macrophylla. Public domain image, Author: Anish nellickal, 2009 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Forest harvesting

Morphological potential of wood

The wood of Swietenia macrophylla, has excellent morphological qualities of fine grain, solid aspect of easy carving, brown to reddish color and excellent polishing, which make it ideal for producing lumber, with export quality for the manufacture of furniture, doors, windows, interior finishing, laminate, plywood, among other turned products.

Fig. 6 Mahogany sheet or veneer - Swietenia macrophylla. Public domain image, Author: Philipp Zinger, 2004 / CC BY-SA 3.0


  • The socialized topics on Swietenia macrophylla (Mahogany), the main species of economic and forest interest in the family Meliaceae, provide general information related to the taxonomy and distribution of S. macrophylla, vegetative and reproductive morphology, soil and climate factors, as well as economic and forest interest by contrasting dendrological information and the morphological potential of mahogany wood.


[1] Salazar R., Soihet C., Méndez J. Swietenia macrophylla King. (Nota técnica No. 21). In: Manejo de semillas de 100 especies forestales de América Latina. Turrialba, CR, Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza. Serie técnica, Manual técnico - CATIE. 2000;41:41-42. Article: Online access

[2] Pérez J. Manual para el cultivo de la Caoba. Centro de investigación, enseñanza y producción agroforestal (CEPIAGRY). Serie técnica Nº 1. 2017:93. Article: Online access

[3] Budowski G. Distribution of tropical american rainforest species, in light of sucessional prosses. Turrialba - Costa Rica. 1965;15:40 -43. Article: Online access

[4] Toledo M. Densidad poblacional y efecto del aprovechamiento forestal en la regeneración natural y el crecimiento diamétrico de la mara (Swietenia macrophylla King). Informe de Proyecto. Instituto Boliviano de Investigación Forestal. Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Bolivia. 2011:89. Article: Online access

[5] Patiño V. Genetic resources of Swietenia and Cedrela in the Neotropics: proposals for coordinated action. FAO Forest Genetic Resources. 1997;25:20-32. Article: Online access

[6] Jesús H. Guía de árboles de Venezuela. Caracas: Sociedad de Ciencias Naturales La Salle. Monografía. 1983;32:224-225. Article: Online access


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The cover image was designed by the author: @lupafilotaxia, incorporating the background image of Forest and Kim Starr, 2009.


#Posh Twitter:

One of the most beautiful woody species for making furniture. The tree is in the same family with Milicia excelsa that is quite popular around here. Mahogany has become a rare species here.

Greetings friend @gentleshaid, always a pleasure to have your kind visit to the blog.

This is not only happening in Africa, because on a global scale there is a great shortage of mahogany plantations. In the case of Venezuela, since 2003 the production of wood from Swietenia macrophylla has been banned, in accordance with considerations of threat of extinction.

Swietenia macrophylla is also known as Royal Mahogany, and its counterpart is African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis). With respect to the species you indicate (Milicia excelsa), I looked for some information and found that it is also under protection, due to high levels of overexploitation.

In South America the counterpart species of Milicia excelsa is the Teca Tectona grandis, of which I have some material that I will publish in the next issue.

Buen post colega @lupafilotaxia otro aspecto que debemos tomar en cuenta es el peligro que atraviesa esta especie.
Como lo expresa @gentleshaid, la caoba representa un interés económico alarmante para el comercio mundial, lo cual ha generado que esta especie de madera esté en peligro de desaparecer de nuestros bosques, debido a una sobre-explotación, aunado a las elevadas tasas de deforestación. La utilidad y estética en el acabo que genera la Swietenia macrophylla representa un atractivo por lo que se está utilizando actualmente en la fabricación de muebles y en la construcción de barcos, lo que deja buenos dividendos económicos a la sociedad pero afecta considerablemente a nuestro planeta.
Una vez mas nos damos cuenta que el interés económico y social prevalece sobre el ambiental...

Saludos @madridbg, gracias por dejar tu comentario y apreciación positiva. La humanidad, si no lee el contexto actual, no tendremos capacidad de respuestas para enfrentar los futuros desastres naturales. Saludos cordiales, nos seguimos leyendo.

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Greeting Professor @lupafilotaxia, good article, forest species are of great importance for our ecosystems, provide an ecological service for fauna and for humans. On the other hand, I understand that it is marketed for the quality of the wood, some farms cultivate it keeping a record before the body that governs the environmental laws, I consider that, if it can provide an economic service with the sale of wood, but we must commit ourselves to sowing again and making rational use of it, but ambition sometimes makes us make mistakes against humanity.

See you later, buddy !

Greetings friend @amestyj, again thanks for your kind visit to the blog. We provide information, in the search for contextualizing about the threatening situation in which the main plant species of forest interest are. Thank you for leaving your appreciation.