Swietenia mahagoni
Common Name: West Indian mahogany 
Type: Tree
Family: Meliaceae
Native Range: Caribbean islands
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 40.00 to 80.00 feet
Spread: 30.00 to 60.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Greenish-yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Street Tree
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11 where it is best grown in deep, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best with consistent moisture, but established trees have some drought tolerance for brief dry spells. This tree has been heavily logged over the years in Florida where it is now endangered.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Swietenia mahagoni, commonly called mahogany or West Indies mahogany, is an evergreen tree with a dense, dome-shaped, rounded but sometimes spreading crown. Some experts consider this tree to be semi-evergreen because it does drop leaves in early spring as new leaves are emerging. It is native to the West Indies and southern Florida (hummocks of Dade and Monroe Counties down the Florida Keys). This tree has a beautiful ornamental shape, but is perhaps best known for its heavy, dark reddish-brown wood which is a premier wood for cabinetry, quality furniture, pianos and other musical instruments, shipbuilding, trim and veneer. Wood from this species was first harvested and taken to Europe for use in cabinetry in the early 1500s. This tree typically grows to 40-50' tall, but mature trees in its native habitat will grow to 80' (less frequently to over 100') tall. Mature trees are distinctively buttressed at the trunk base. Scaly gray bark often splits to expose reddish inner bark. Branches are clad with pinnate-compound deep green leaves (to 4-8" long). Each leaf has 4-10 pairs of oval, glossy, leathery green leaflets (to 2 1/2" long). Axillary clusters (each 3-6" long) of inconspicuous greenish yellow flowers (each to 1/3" across) bloom in spring. Each small flower has 5 sepals, 5 petals and 10 stamens. Flowers are followed by large oval woody fruits (2-4" long) that ripen in fall or winter. In late winter to early spring, each capsule splits at the base into 5 parts releasing its seed to the wind.

Genus name honors Gerard van Swieten (1700-1772), Dutch botanist and physician who settled in Vienna in 1745.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for tent caterpillars, web worms, coffee tree beetles, borers and scale.

Uses

In southern Florida, this tree is commonly grown in landscapes. Also is a popular shade tree and street tree.