Swietenia macrophylla: Big-leaf mahogany


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Mahogany are semi-evergreen trees that lose old leaves as new leaves begin to grow. Currently, Swietenia macrophylla, the Big-leaf mahogany is shedding its leaves and this can be seen along FRIM’s main road, Jalan FRI. On a windy day, the falling leaves can be seen dispersed by wind along the road, near the junction to Jalan Bukit Bujang.

Swietenia macrophylla is one of the earliest exotic timber trees planted in FRIM’s ground along with Shorea leprosula. Other exotic trees planted in the early days were Tectona grandis and Gmelina arboreaShorea macrophylla is a tropical American tree, native to South and Central America. The genus belongs to the family Meliaceae which is also the family which sentang and neem trees belong. The trees from the genus of Swietenia, especially S. mahagoni and S. macrophylla are valued for their hard reddish-brown wood. The wood from mahogany is strong and is usually used for making furniture, doors, paneling, musical instruments, ships, caskets, veneer and plywood.

As this species name suggests (macro means large while phylla means leaves), it bears large leaves, up to 45 cm long, composed of an even number of leaflets found on either side of the central midrib. The fruits of the big-leaf mahogany are large, light grey to brown capsules that measure almost 40 cm in length, containing 71 winged seeds, 7 to 12 cm long. The fruits of S. macrophylla are called “sky fruits” because they seem to point upwards from the tree. The “sky fruit” concentrate is sold as a natural remedy that is said to improve blood circulation and skin. Consumption of the sky fruit concentrate is approved by the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

Prepared by Noor Azlin Y. Posted on 8 February 2013. The weekly weather was 23° to 33°C and rainy.