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mahogany

mahogany, common name for the Meliaceae, a widely distributed family of chiefly tropical shrubs and trees, often having scented wood. The valuable hardwood called mahogany is obtained from many members of the family; in America and Europe it is imported for cabinetmaking and similar uses. According to tradition it was first introduced to England from the West Indies when Sir Walter Raleigh had a mahogany table made for Queen Elizabeth I; the popularity of the wood increased steadily in the 18th cent. The different mahoganies vary in color from golden to deep red brown; most are close-grained and resistant to termites. The principal sources are the tropical American genus Swietenia (especially S. macrophylla, bigleaf mahogany, the present main source, and S. mahogani, West Indian mahogany, the historic main source) and the W African genus Khaya (especially K. ivorensis).

Another important member of the family is the West Indian cedar, or cigar-box tree (Cedrela odorata), whose scented, insect-repellent wood is commonly used for cigar boxes. The wood of the chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) of Asia, introduced to (and now naturalized in) the S United States, Africa, and the Mediterranean as an ornamental, is also used for lumber. The name mahogany is also given to numerous unrelated tropical trees that provide similar lumber.

The mahogany family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Sapindales.

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mahogany

ma·hog·a·ny / məˈhägənē/ • n. 1. hard reddish-brown timber from a tropical tree, used for high-quality furniture. ∎  a rich reddish-brown color like that of mahogany wood. 2. the tropical American tree (genus Swietenia, family Meliaceae) that produces this timber, widely harvested from the wild. ∎  used in names of trees that yield similar timber, e.g., Philippine mahogany.

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mahogany

mahogany Any of numerous species of tropical American deciduous trees and their wood, valued for furniture making. Mahogany has composite leaves, large clusters of flowers, and winged seeds. Height: to 18m (60ft). Family Meliaceae.

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mahogany

mahogany XVII (mohogoney). of unkn. orig.

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mahogany

mahogany See SWIETENIA.

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mahogany

mahoganyLéonie, peony •Tierney •Briony, bryony, Hermione •tourney • ebony • Albany •chalcedony • Alderney •Persephone, Stephanie, telephony •antiphony, epiphany, polyphony, tiffany •symphony •cacophony, homophony, theophany, Zoffany •euphony • agony • garganey •Antigone •cosmogony, mahogany, theogony •balcony • Gascony • Tuscany •calumny •felony, Melanie, miscellany •villainy • colony •Chamonix, salmony, scammony, Tammany •harmony •anemone, Emeny, hegemony, lemony, Yemeni •alimony, palimony •agrimony • acrimony •matrimony, patrimony •ceremony • parsimony • antimony •sanctimony • testimony • simony •Romany • Germany • threepenny •timpani • sixpenny • tuppenny •accompany, company •barony • saffrony • tyranny •synchrony • irony • saxony • cushiony •Anthony • betony •Brittany, dittany, litany •botany, cottony, monotony •gluttony, muttony •Bethany • oniony • raisiny •attorney, Burney, Czerny, Ernie, ferny, gurney, journey, Verny

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Mahogany

Mahogany ★½ 1975 (PG)

Poor girl becomes world-famous high fashion model and designer, ditches boyfriend in the old neighborhood, gets a career boost when she daringly appears in a dress of her own creation at a Roman fashion show, and still yearns for the boy back home. Motown attempt to make mainstream hit that's glossy and predictable. 109m/C VHS, DVD . Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Anthony Perkins, Nina Foch; D: Berry Gordy; W: John Byrum; C: David Watkin.

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Mahogany

Mahogany

Biology of mahogany

Uses of mahogany

Some related species

Resources

Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani ) is a member of the family Meliaceae, which contains about 500 species of trees and shrubs native to tropical forests in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Other common names for this species are the Spanish or West Indies mahogany. Various other species of trees have also been given the name mahogany, but the true mahogany is Swietenia mahogani. Mahogany is one of the most valuable of the tropical hardwoods because of its desirable qualities for the crafting of fine furniture.

Mahogany is native to humid tropical forests of the West Indies, Mexico, and Central America. Until rather recently, mahogany was especially abundant in forests in Honduras. However, the quantity of mahogany has been greatly reduced throughout its range by extensive logging. Although much reduced in abundance, mahogany is not yet considered an endangered species.

Mahogany is also indigenous to extreme southern Florida, where it occurs in some of the hardwood islands in the sawgrass wetlands of Everglades National Park, known locally as hammocks. However, mahogany reaches the northern limits of its range in southern Florida, and is rather sparse in that region. Because of its great value as lumber, mahogany has also been planted in suitable tropical climates beyond its native range.

Biology of mahogany

Mahogany grows as tall as about 66-98 feet (20-30 m), and can achieve a diameter of more than 24 inches (60 cm), exclusive of the large, basal buttresses the tree usually develops. Mahogany is a slow-growing tree, and it usually occurs in older, closed forests.

The wood of mahogany is very hard, heavy, and strong, and has a rich, red-brown color, with an attractive, crooked grain. Mahogany wood is among the worlds most prized and hardest-wearing timbers, and is principally used to manufacture fine furniture. The bark is dark brown and rather scaly.

Mahogonys dark-green leaves of mahogany are arranged in an alternate fashion on the twigs. They are compound, meaning six to eight oval-shaped, leathery leaflets arise from a single petiole. The entire leaf has a length of 4-7 inches (10-18 cm). Mahogany leaves are evergreen, that is, they are not shed all at once at some particular season.

The flowers of mahogany are small, only about 0.1 inch (2-3 mm) in diameter, with five greenish or whitish petals occurring in open clusters as a loose inflorescence. The flowers secrete nectar and are pollinated by insects. The fruits of mahogany are a reddish-brown capsule, which when ripe, split along five seams to shed the 0.8 inch- (2 cm) long seeds.

Uses of mahogany

Mahogany wood is used to manufacture fine furniture; it is valued because it is durable and can be carved with intricate details. It has a deep, rich color, attractive grain, stains beautifully, and glues solidly onto manufactured products. Mahogany was first imported to Europe in 1724, and it soon became famous because of the gracefully ornate furniture that Thomas Chippendale, an English cabinetmaker, began to make from the wood.

The most valuable raw product produced from mahogany wood is solid lumber, which can then be manufactured into expensive furniture and cabinets. However, solid mahogany is a very expensive material, and is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. As a result, much mahogany is now used to manufacture a veneer product, in which a core of inferior wood is covered with a thin layer of mahogany. This composite material is glued together, and combines many of the desirable qualities of mahogany, especially its beautiful grain and color, with the cost savings associated with the use of other, relatively inexpensive species of trees.

Some related species

Some other species in the family Meliaceae are of commercial importance as sources of lumber, or as ornamental plants in horticulture.

The Spanish or cigar-box cedar (Cedrela odorata ) of Central and South America has a hard, durable, richly colored wood that is used as a substitute for the true mahogany in fine cabinetry and furniture, as is the

KEY TERMS

Buttress A structure that many trees of humid tropical forests grow at their base to stabilize the tree against the swaying forces of the wind. Buttresses can occur as broadened bases of the trunk, or as large, vertical projections from the base.

Tropical hardwood A generic term for a wide variety of species of tropical, angiosperm trees. Tropical hardwoods have a heavy, dense wood that is valuable for the manufacturing of lumber, or composite materials such as plywood. Mahogany and teak are among the most prized of the tropical hardwoods.

crabwood (Carapa guianensis), with a broadly similar range. African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis ) grows in tropical forests on the west coast of Africa and is one of the many African species, including those in the genera Entandrophragma and Lovoa, which are substituted for the wood of the true mahogany. Some tropical hardwoods in other plant families are also used as substitutes for mahogany, for example, the Columbian mahogany Cariniana pyriformis, family Lecythidaceae.

The Chinaberry (Melia azedarach ) is native to southern Asia, but is grown as an ornamental plant in parts of the southern United States. The compound leaves of the Chinaberry can be longer than 20 inches (50 cm), and its purplish flowers are attractive and fragrant.

Species in the genera Azadirachta and Melia are used to manufacture botanical insecticides. Seeds of the trees Carapa guianensis and C. moluccensis are used to manufacture a minor product known as carapa fat, a thick white or yellow oil used in oil lamps, and sometimes as an insect repellant.

Resources

BOOKS

Judd, Walter S., Christopher Campbell, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Michael J. Donoghue, and Peter Stevens. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. 2nd ed. with CD-ROM. Suderland, MD: Sinauer, 2002.

OTHER

Rainforest Relief. Mahogany (Sweitenia sp., Khaya sp.) <http://www.rainforestrelief.org/What_to_Avoid_and_Alternatives/Rainforest_Wood/What_to_Avoid_What_to_Choose/By_Tree_Species/Tropical_Woods/M/Mahogany.html> (accessed December 2, 2006)

Floridata. Swietenia mahogani <http://www.floridata.com/ref/S/swie_mah.cfm> (accessed December 2, 2006)

Bill Freedman

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Mahogany

Mahogany

Mahogany (Swietenia mahogani) is a member of the family Meliaceae, which contains about 500 other species of trees and shrubs native to tropical forests in the Americas, Africa , and Asia . Other common names for this species are the Spanish or West Indies mahogany. Various other species of trees have also been given the name mahogany, but the true mahogany is Swietenia mahogani. Mahogany is one of the most valuable of the tropical hardwoods because of its desirable qualities for the crafting of fine furniture.

Mahogany is native to humid tropical forests of the West Indies, Mexico, and Central America. Until rather recently, mahogany was especially abundant in forests in Honduras. However, the quantity of mahogany has been greatly reduced throughout its range by extensive logging. Although much reduced in abundance, mahogany is not yet considered an endangered species .

Mahogany is also indigenous to extreme southern Florida, where it occurs in some of the hardwood "islands" in the sawgrass wetlands of Everglades National Park, known locally as hammocks. However, mahogany reaches the northern limits of its range in southern Florida, and is rather sparse in that region. Because of its great value as lumber, mahogany has also been planted in suitable tropical climates beyond its native range.


Biology of mahogany

Mahogany grows as tall as about 66-98 ft (20-30 m), and can achieve a diameter of more than 24 in (60 cm), exclusive of the large, basal buttresses the tree usually develops. Mahogany is a slow-growing tree, and it usually occurs in older, closed forests.

The wood of mahogany is very hard, heavy, and strong, and has a rich, red-brown color , with an attractive, crooked grain. Mahogany wood is among the world's most prized and hardest-wearing timbers, and is principally used to manufacture fine furniture. The bark of mahogany is a dark brown color and rather scaly.

The dark-green colored leaves of mahogany are arranged in an alternate fashion on the twigs. Mahogany leaves are compound, meaning six to eight oval-shaped, leathery leaflets arise from a single petiole. The entire leaf has a length of 4-7 in (10-18 cm). Mahogany leaves are evergreen, that is, they are not shed all at once at some particular season.

The flowers of mahogany are small, only about 0.1 in (2-3 mm) in diameter, with five greenish or whitish petals, and occurring in open clusters as a loose inflorescence. The flowers secrete nectar , and are pollinated by insects . The fruits of mahogany are a reddish-brown capsule, which when ripe, split along five seams to shed the 0.8 in (2 cm) long seeds .


Uses of mahogany

The wood of mahogany is one of the most outstanding materials for the manufacturing of fine furniture. Mahogany wood is valued because it is durable and can be carved with intricate details. It has a deep, rich color, attractive grain, stains beautifully, and glues solidly onto manufactured products. Mahogany was first imported to Europe in 1724, and it soon became famous because of the gracefully ornate furniture that Chippendale, an English cabinet maker, began to make from the wood.

The most valuable raw product produced from mahogany wood is solid lumber, which can then be manufactured into expensive furniture and cabinets. However, solid mahogany is a very expensive material, and is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. As a result, much mahogany is now used to manufacture a veneer product, in which a core of inferior wood is covered with a thin layer of mahogany. This composite material is glued together, and combines many of the desirable qualities of mahogany, especially its beautiful grain and color, with the cost savings associated with the use of other, relatively inexpensive species of trees.


Some related species

Some other species in the family Meliaceae are of commercial importance as sources of lumber, or as ornamental plants in horticulture .

The Spanish or cigar-box cedar (Cedrela odorata) of Central and South America has a hard, durable, richly colored wood that is used as a substitute for the true mahogany in fine cabinetry and furniture, as is the crab-wood (Carapa guianensis), with a broadly similar range. The African mahogany (Khaya senegalensis) grows in tropical forests on the west coast of Africa and is one of the many African species, including those in the genera Entandrophragma and Lovoa, which are substituted for the wood of the true mahogany. Some tropical hardwoods in other plant families are also used as substitutes for mahogany, for example, the Columbian mahogany Cariniana pyriformis, family Lecythidaceae.

The Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) is native to southern Asia, but is grown as an ornamental plant in parts of the southern United States. The compound leaves of the Chinaberry can be longer than 20 in (50 cm), and its purplish flowers are attractive and fragrant.

Species in the genera Azadirachta and Melia are used to manufacture botanical insecticides . Seeds of the trees Carapa guianensis and C. moluccensis are used to manufacture a minor product known as carapa fat, a thick white or yellow oil used in oil lamps, and sometimes as an insect repellant.


Resources

books

Judd, Walter S., Christopher Campbell, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Michael J. Donoghue, and Peter Stevens. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. 2nd ed. with CD-ROM. Suderland, MD: Sinauer, 2002.


Bill Freedman

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Buttress

—A structure that many trees of humid tropical forests grow at their base to stabilize the tree against the swaying forces of the wind. Buttresses can occur as broadened bases of the trunk, or as large, vertical projections from the base.

Tropical hardwood

—A generic term for a wide variety of species of tropical, angiosperm trees. Tropical hardwoods have a heavy, dense wood that is valuable for the manufacturing of lumber, or composite materials such as plywood. Mahogany and teak are among the most prized of the tropical hardwoods.

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