Mahogany, the national tree
Referring to mahogany is to talk about the national floral emblem. Since 2011 it becomes the national tree, although it is precisely at that time when the flower of mahogany lost its condition of national emblem and was replaced by the Rose of Bayahibe.
The West Indies mahogany or original mahogany (Swietenia mahogani) is a big tree, round top, which can reach 25 meters. It belongs to the family Meliaceae and is part of the endemic vegetation of the Dominican Republic. As a deciduous tree it loses its leaves in late winter. New leaves are composed of three or four pairs of asymmetric leaflets but when they comes out the color is purplish red, turning soon into yellow-green.
The flowers are small, fragrant having a greenish tonality. Mahogany blossoms along with new leaves between the months of March and June. The tiny flowers, both male and female, are grouped in a posy. Regarding to the fruit, it is an ovoid and woody capsule, which once it is ripe makes the shell protecting the winged seeds divides into five sections. The fruits can be seen from June to February.
The reddish-brown heartwood is hard and resistant to insects and rot. The Spanish colonization in America made possible that Europeans could know this type of wood, which thanks to its strength, was mainly used for shipbuilding.
Meanwhile, the texture is thin and the fiber varies from straight to grained. Therefore mahogany is considered a precious wood, the most valuable global timber trade, synonymous of objects of great value and delicacy. It is widely employed in carpentry and joinery. It is used to build pianos, guitars and other musical instruments. Being a wood easy to polish together with its silky appearance makes it the favorite one among woodcarvers.
Mahogany tree is usually found in streets, parks and gardens as an ornament and also to provide shade. It is able to withstand strong winds and tolerates salt found in the air and soils. It grows in damp and semi-dry forests at low elevations along the island. In addition to building ship or luxury furniture, mahogany has other uses. One of them is in medicine because from its bark, having high tannin content, can be extracted an astringent for wounds. Meanwhile, infusion of bark and seeds is used as a tonic and for typhoid fiber or diarrhea.
Furthermore, mahogany seeds can calm a toothache due to their high stringency and the oil obtained from them is used for cosmetics.
Mahogany is considered an endangered species, especially in Central America, due to the irrational way of exploitation. Some measures have been already implemented to keep it safe, such as habitat protection or streamlining removal
Tags: Fauna and Flora