The Return of the Big-Leaved Mahogany

posted by Faanito on November 14th, 2012

Swietenia macrophylla King (family Meliaceae), also known as the big-leaf mahogany or caoba in Spanish, is a species of tropical tree endemic to Central and particularly South America. It’s another tree on a list of once ubiquitous tree species that are seriously threatened due to anthropogenic over-exploitation, and at the 2002 CITES convergence it was placed on Appendix II – species that may face extinction if trade is not controlled. It also a species that was once prevalent in the region we here at Paititi reside at, though most now probably find themselves being a support for late-night bar banter disguised as a polished countertop. But that’s the past, and we here at Paititi are more way more interested in creating an abundant future, thus we present to you – The Return of the Big-Leaved Mahogany.

This overhead canopy deciduous species would often reach up to 60m in height, though these days, due to intensive logging, a maximum height of 30m is more common. Though the deep red to brown heartwood is soft and medium-weight, it is valued timber for the manufacture of quality furniture as it is highly workable, polishes well and does not crack or bend. Hence Ron Burgundy of Anchorman attempting to swoon miss Veronica Cornerstone with a scotch in one hand and the pick-up line: “I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells like rich mahogany.”

Swietenia macrophylla King thus seems to be a great practical species to include in a polycultural agroforestry system for it’s reforestation potential – it provides a high-commodity product and improves soil. Reintroducing this species to our locale also allows us the opportunity to allow this magnificent being to return to the land where it belongs.

Fortunately for us the Great Spirit recently sent our good friend Rick Pickett, permie-extraordinaire and all-round awesome brother, for a visit with his partner to help initiate the construction of our new jumbo coboven (more on this later). Being the nice ecobra that he is, he brought along some caoba seed that he collected in Pucalpa, and seeing that propagating trees from seed is probably one of my top 5 favorite activities in the world the seed soon found themselves nestling between our new ubercompost in little pots. Below here are some photos of the particularly eager ones, three months old and ready to reclaim their ancestors land in our ever-evolving agroforestry system here at Paititi 🙂