At heights of up to 60 metres, this massive evergreen species bursts out above the ceiling of the forest canopy. It is named after the big leaves that it bears, which can be as long as 50 cm.
Its bark is dark-brown and flaky with a sweet odour. Its flowers are small and white in colour but the fruits are large capsules that are light grey to brown in colour. It is one of the most commercially important trees in the Amazon as other members of the mahogany genus are commercially extinct due to overexploitation.
Mahogany (known as caoba throughout much of Latin America, as mogno in Brazil, mara in Bolivia, and ahuano in Ecuador) is patchily distributed from southern Mexico through Central and into South America, to its southern limits in Bolivia and Brazil.
The trade in big-leaf mahogany began with the Spanish in the 1500s and over the centuries the mahogany populations in Central and South America have gradually declined. Big-leaf mahogany – prized for its rich reddish colour and good technical characteristics – has been sought, traded and used for the manufacture of furniture, musical instruments and other wood products of high quality, beauty and durability.
Loss of habitat for species
The big-leaf mahogany forests are an important habitat for many species including the endangered giant otter
). The giant otter lives in the streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands of the Amazon and other South American river systems. The removal of big-leaf mahoganies and other trees leads to soil erosion which destroys the river habitat of the otters.
Height: 40 - 60 m
Trunk diameter: 80 cm
Leaves: 35 - 50 cm
Belize; Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Dominica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Peru; Venezuela
Tropical moist broadleaf forests, Tropical dry broadleaf forests