Kampala Tree and Palm Directory

Tree Species
Common Name
Tree Description
Tree Uses

English: Big leaf mahogany.

+ Tree Species

Swietenia macrophylla

+ Tree Family


+ Ecology

Big leaf mahogany is native to the main land of Central and South America, from Mexico to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It is found in all forest types, from the edge of the pine savannah to the climax rainforest, but mostly in mixed hardwood forest belts, along river banks, on deep alluvial soils of considerable fertility. It occurs scattered or in small groups, but densities of more than 4-8 trees/ha are rarely encountered. S. macrophylla grows best on well-drained sites with medium to heavy soils. It is now cultivated in plantations in many parts of the tropics. In Kampala, Big leaf mahogany can be found along Jinja road among other places.

+ Description

Very large tree, reaching a height of 30-40 m and a girth of 3-4 m; in favourable conditions it can reach 60 m high and 9 m girth. Trunk straight, cylindrical, with a buttressed base.

BARK: dark brown, rough, flaking off in small patches. Flaky bark has a sweet odor.

LEAVES: paripinnate, up to 60 cm long; leaflets 6-16, ovate, lanceolate, acuminate, slightly oblique, light green or reddish when young, dark green and shining when mature, up to 20 cm long, with 8-12 pale, secondary nerves.

FLOWERS:8 mm across, in narrow supra-axillary panicles about 8-13 cm long and fragrant; petals greenish-white, oblong, 4 mm long, rigidly pointed.

FRUIT: grey-browna woody capsule resembling a large inverted club, about 12.5 x 7.5 cm, erect.

+ Uses

An ornamental tree.

Agroforestry: used in reforestation projects and has proved to be suitable in areas not protected from grazing, used as a shade tree, for example, for cacao, coffee and young plantations of dipterocarps, when young, it can be used as an under-crop for teak (Tectona grandis), used in intercropping with crops like such as corn, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes and cassava, rushed fruit shells have been used as a potting medium (soil improver).

A gum is produced from cuts in the bark is marketed in both pure form and mixed with other gums.

The bark is used for dyeing and tanning leather.

An oil can be extracted from the seed kernels.

The wood is used in interior panelling, joinery work, turnery, plywood and heavy construction work, make sfurniture and hand tools. It is also suitable for precision woodwork such as models and patterns, instrument cases, clocks, printer's blocks and parts of musical instruments. 

Medicine: bark. http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php id=Swietenia+macrophylla

+ Propagation


+ Management

Slow-growing. The tree is self-pruning and further pruning is not necessary.

+ Remarks

A very well-known and valuable timber, mahogany is regarded as the world's finest timber for high-class furniture and cabinet work. Its popularity is especially due to its attractive appearance in combination with ease of working, excellent finishing qualities and dimensional stability. It is also often used for interior trim such as panelling, doors and decorative borders. It is used for boat building, often as a decorative wood for luxury yachts and ocean liners, but sometimes also as plywood for planking and deck housing. The tree has been heavily exploited within its native range, becoming virtually extinct in some areas, with populations everywhere in steep decline.

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