What’s Blooming in Paradise: Mahogany tree (Swietenia mahagoni)
First impression: Super tall, lovely deep grooved bark, and an unusual fruit that looks like brown pears. After a second look, I notice these latte shapes are numerous all over the tree. I see oodles of these broken petalshaped pieces of wood at the base of this tree. The dense arrangements of small leaves and fruits make gazing at this tall giant quite breathtaking. Mahogany in paradise? Oh yes, we have them before they become fine furniture, cascading and shading all over our Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.
Upon further investigation: The Meliaceae or Mahogany family is almost exclusively tropical in location, and hosts more than 500 species of plants varying from shrubs, vines and trees. West Indian Mahogany is one of our fabulous local native species. It was the original mahogany shipped back to Europe for fine furniture, beginning in the 16th century. Its beauty was almost its demise, but thanks to many conservationists, we can enjoy its natural beauty in our tropical gardens.
They are gorgeous large trees with broad, dense symmetrical canopies. Our fast growing star’s mature height is 40-60 feet tall. The trunk is massive and unique, with gnarly grooves and lots of deep textured bark. The dimensional bark is a perfect host for orchids or tilansias. I have had success with placing Vanda, Oncidium, or Dendrobiums on their rugged bark crotches.
Mahogany can be briefly deciduous and partially loses its leaves usually at the end of winter. Look closely, new growth is right around the corner. The newbie’s begin reddish purple, and then turn yellowish green colors. The leaves are small in proportion to their large canopy size, so it takes lots of small leaves to make up their large spreading canopy. I refrain from raking up the leaves and use them as a natural amendment to our garden.
You will have a hard time finding the flowers, they are small but fragrant. It’s the fruits and/or seed pods that are noticed right away. From a distance, they look like mangos or pears that have been petrified. In reality they are mahogany wood shaped in five flower petals, fused quite neatly to explode and open up when they drop to the ground. Really cool, these wooden grenades hold hundreds of seeds.
You may plant in full sun or filtered shade and is a very hardy native tree with little or no pests or diseases. I began my love of mahogany with my first plant that I purchased from the SCCF Native Plant Nursery. I invite you to add more mahogany trees to your garden. Let them grow tall and shady and discover what a treasure they are outside as you recline under them and just close your eyes for a minute or two.
Small leaves great for natural soil amendment
May inspire more outside naps
Perfect nitch for orchids.
Daily clean up wooden fruits
May have to invest in a comfortable hammock
May tire of neighbors asking for the pears on your tree
kaboom look out wooden grenades.
Conclusion: You can’t walk by these majestic trees without admiring their generous showering of wooden fruits. Don’t forget to hug our mahoganies, just because they survived and made it to our tropical eyecatching garden.
Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!