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What is a Mahogany Tree? - Scientific Name, Fruit & Uses

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

The mahogany tree is known for its beautiful reddish color wood. In this lesson we will learn the scientific names of mahogany trees; what the tree looks like, including the fruit; and what the tree is used for.

Mahogany Tree Scientific Names

Mahogany wood has a beautiful reddish color and straight grains which makes for beautiful carvings. When we use a common name, such as 'mahogany tree,' there can be a lot of confusion as to what we are actually referring to. Wood workers have specific rules to ensure wood is truly mahogany. When we look at these rules there are three trees that fit the bill: Swietenia mahagoni, Swietenia humilis, and Swietenia macrophylla.

Mahogany wood gives a beautiful red color to wood carvings such as this.
Mahogany carving

The Swietenia mahagoni is native to southern Florida, the Caribbean, and the West Indies. This is the 'original' mahogany tree. The Swietenia humilis is the dwarf mahogany, which only grows to about 20 feet tall. The Swietenia macrophylla is native to Mexico and South America. This species has commonly been planted in Asia for a wood source.

The Swietenia genus is classified as follows:

  • Kingdom: Plantae (plant)
  • Phylum: Tracheophyta (vascular plant)
  • Class: Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons, or flowering plants with two tiny leaves inside each seed)
  • Order: Sapindales (woody, generally compound leaves)
  • Family: Meliaceae (branched flower clusters and fleshy fruit in a leathery skin, typically evergreen)

Mahogany Tree Fruit and Appearance

Typically the mahogany tree can grow up to 150 feet high, and 12 feet in diameter. But the average diameter is only about 5 feet. Often the first limb is over 50 feet up.

The Mahogany tree can bloom with hundreds of these tiny flowers
Mahogany flower

The bark has a dark color and is fairly smooth. The leaf is a compound leaf, so there are several distinct leaflets on a single stem. The tree grows small, purple-yellow flowers. When in bloom there can be hundreds of these flowers on the tree!

An illustration of the leaves, fruit, and seeds of the Mahogany tree
Mahogany leaves, fruit, and seeds

The seeds grow in a woody capsule (the fruit) that doesn't hang from the branch, instead it stands straight up. This fruit isn't like the soft flesh of a peach, instead it is more woody. They are also called 'sky fruit'. The fruit can be up to 6 inches long. The seeds are same color of a good Mahogany wood.

The Mahogany fruit consists of a woody capsule with several seeds inside
Mahogany fruit

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