Featured Species: Mahogany

Featured Species: Mahogany

When people think of mahogany, they generally envision a rich, dark colored wood that embodies the very essence of classic elegance. However, it is important to know that what we often refer to as “mahogany” can actually be one of hundreds of varying species within about 50 genera. While each species has unique characteristics that need to be considered when using it for flooring or any other type of woodwork, we will be discussing the general characteristics of the species within the genus Swietenia, which is often called “Genuine Mahogany.”

Mahogany Trees

The mahogany tree can grow up to 200 feet but is usually found around 50 feet, providing shade and ornamental decoration for yards in the Southern hemisphere. It has a trunk that can grow 3-6 feet in diameter.

Because they grow only in USDA zones 10 and 11 and have been over-harvested in the past, there are some sustainability issues to consider. For example, mahogany trees in Southern Florida have been added to the endangered species list. The only species commercially grown at this point is the Honduran or big-leaf mahogany.

By Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada - 2.mel.mahogany, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52713527
By jayeshpatil912 - https://www.flickr.com/photos/75380256@N06/6925165314/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25006619

While primarily known for its lumber, the mahogany tree also produces beautiful clusters of white or yellow-green blossoms known to carpet the ground, creating a magical effect on the forest floor. It is also known for the gorgeous fragrance that wafts from the bark and wood. Some have referred to this scent as woodsy with a bit of spice. In fact, mahogany is a popular scent for men’s cologne and aromatic soaps.

The bark of the tree has other uses, not just for its fragrance. It can be used for medicinal purposes, treating diarrhea and fever. It can also be used to produce gums and for tanning leather. So, as you can see, the tree itself is extremely useful. But what about the wood?


Mahogany Wood

Mahogany wood is naturally beautiful and has been an important resource for centuries. In fact, some call the 18th and 19th centuries the “Age of Mahogany.” It was so popular that people would explore remote jungles to try and find it. It has been used for many things, including flooring, paneling, furniture, and boats.

It is also considered a “tonewood,” which aids in the production of musical sound. This is why it is often used in woodwind and acoustic stringed instruments like guitars. Check out this beautiful Martin guitar made from mahogany. 

It is often noted for its “chatoyancy,” which literally translates to “shine like a cat’s eye.” But what does that mean? The best way to describe it is an optical effect where a band of light is reflected, creating a somewhat 3D effect. If you want to learn more about chatoyance, watch the short video below from the WoodWorkers Guild of America that covers this effect thoroughly.

This fascinating effect is one of the reasons this wood has been so popular, especially when it comes to having a truly unique floor.

Mahogany Flooring

Choosing mahogany for your hardwood floor can be a fantastic decision. The look of mahogany is said to match any kind of decoration or décor, so it is one of the most timeless options available. It also has wonderful longevity because it is resistant to fading, making it suitable for areas with a lot of sunlight, and wood rot, making it a good choice for outdoor decking.

It often has a straight, even grain with a reddish-brown tint that darkens over time. If you do not want your floor to get darker over time, you can finish it with a UV blocker or try to find a lighter-colored mahogany, even though it will still darken over time.

Because it averages a 900 on the Janka scale, being relatively softer than White Oak, it is easy to work with. However, since this wood is so expensive, you want to make sure you have a professional install it for you.

It is expensive because it is an exotic import and because of sustainability considerations. Many people have chosen to use reclaimed mahogany because of this fact. Others have chosen to only use mahogany in decorative flooring elements, like inlays. The contrast of this darker wood with a lighter colored wood can be truly eye-catching.

If you are interested in mahogany hardwood flooring for your home or business, give us a call or fill out the contact form below.


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