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Swietenia macrophylla - Big leaf mahogany


Native to:



Central America and northern South America.

All forest types. 35 meter tall tree, up to 500 meters above sea level.

Swietenia macrophylla - Big leaf mahogany

Ecological value:

Slow growing, attracts insect pollinators including bees and moths. Pioneer species, used to recover degraded soils/land, particularly in dry landscapes. Prevents soil erosion. Leaf litter enhances soil fertility.

Material uses:

Seed oil used by the ancient Mexicans in cosmetics and soaps. Gum from timber. Crushed fruit shells as potting medium. Bark for dying and tanning leather. Dense, red-pink wood, fairly durable with high technical properties, used in interiors, plywood, heavy construction, furniture.

Edible uses:

No part of tree is safe for human consumption. Seeds are poisonous and toxic in certain quantities, and are only used medicinally. Used as shade-tree, used in agroforestry systems.

Medicinal use:

The seeds are used in the treatment of chest pains, coughs, cancer and amoebiasis. Bark, seeds and sawdust reputed to be poisonous (contains allelopathic compounds).

Other details:

The seeds have a long storage life, probably in excess of 200 years in controlled conditions. When young, can be intercropped with corn, bean, bananas, sweat potato, and cassava. Used in live fences. Classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Hyejung Moon/Christine Facella


“Swietenia Macrophylla King | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science.” n.d. Plants of the World Online. Accessed November 18, 2023.
‌“Swietenia Macrophylla - Useful Tropical Plants.” n.d.
Image source: C. Facella.

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