The term mahogany has multiple meanings; it apparently originates from the West Indies for the wood of a native tree with straight grain, moderate density, durable, resistant to rot, with a warm reddish-brown color and easy to work. Mahogany wood is prized for making furniture, paneling, boats, musical instruments and so on. Scientifically, genuine mahogany trees are classified in the Mahogany plant family, under the genus Swietenia, with three mahogany species: West Indian (S. mahagoni), Honduran (S. macrophylla) and Pacific Coast (S. humilis). Mahogany trees in the wild readily hybridize, often making precise identification of a specimen difficult. It has been suggested that there may be indeed only a single quite variable species (macrophylla), but that theory has not yet been researched and resolved. Mahogany bark extracts and gum have medicinal use and bark tannin can be used to tan leather, giving it a rich mahogany red color.
Mahogany is the national tree of the Dominican Republic and Belize. As sources of genuine mahogany in the Americas have become depleted, two events took place. First, genuine mahogany plantations were established to supply markets for the wood, principally located in Asia. Second, six other tree genera were identified in the Mahogany family which have similar which could be harvested in the wild. This has resulted in other mahoganies in the timber trade, often called true mahoganies, and denoted to by their origins: African, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, New Zealand and Philippine. The trees providing these alternate sources of mahogany wood have no role in landscaping and apparently are not grown on plantations. West Indian and Honduran mahogany are both grown as ornamentals, but the West Indian species is more popular for landscaping because it is smaller in stature, often 30-40 feet tall, whereas Honduran mahogany has a potential mature height of over 100 feet. West Indian Mahogany has a natural distribution which includes South Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Wild mahogany populations in Florida are threatened. West Indian Mahogany is a popular ornamental foliage tree with applications as a light shade tree under which grass will grow, as a screen, in parking lot islands and along streets. The tree is resistant to wind and can be pruned to maintain size and shape. Treeworld has available Swietenia mahagoni plants of five different sizes to satisfy landscaping needs.