Mahogany Wood Is Making a Comeback
Mahogany wood has carried iconic, identifiable characteristics of unique beauty and is among the top selections for wood working projects.
Genuine Mahogany wood is most used in upscale, classy structures and items; the reddish maple-like hue and smooth texture of mahogany wood offer a very distinct feeling of wealth and refinement.
One of mahogany wood most unique features is in how it seems to appear somewhat translucent on its surface when polished, while changing when light interacts with the straight-grained composition of Genuine Mahogany wood. However, mahogany wood is not only known for its beauty as its diffuse-porous structure makes it a pleasure for woodworking.
This is one reason why you can find mahogany wood in just about anything considered classy, from boats to guitars. It’s a species of wood that can be sanded and planed easily, meaning that it’s an ideal hardwood for premium-priced items and art. At the same time, it also has curious resistance to time and wear, so items made with mahogany wood will simply last. Genuine mahogany is a species of hardwood timber that offers unparalleled and desirable properties, which has been a prominent driver of demand in the lumber market.
The Downside to Being Desirable
What is often unknown about mahogany wood is the fact that it comes from a tree that grows at a very slow rate. Some mahogany trees found in Bolivia average roughly 105 years in order to grow to a ‘merchantable’ diameter, according to Swietking.org. In other countries the growth rates can be as little as .26cm per year, which is up to 148 years to achieve a diameter that can be legally commercially harvested as hardwood lumber.
While Swietenia Macrophylla tends to be a rather resilient tree as a mature adult, dying off at a consistent average of 1% annually, most problems have to do with the frailty of mahogany saplings. Because mahogany trees are often sparsely populated, it does not provide an environment that is conducive for the young trees to survive unfavorable conditions, according to a study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization:
“The low density of individuals directly affects the natural regeneration of the species, because seed production is not abundant, and the possibility of establishing seedlings, which facilitating the future presence of trees at different growth stages, is less likely to happen.”
Simply put, this forms a perfect storm against the mahogany hardwood species.
Why Mahogany Wood Will Vanish If We Don’t Continue
Putting the pieces together: an unusually high percentage of mahogany saplings die before reaching maturity, but even before that stage, Swietenia Macrophylla trees do not produce very many seeds in general. And still, even if the sapling makes it to the point where its probability of survival appears to be favorable, its growth rate is relatively slow compared with other wood species.
Of course, this alone would not affect the continuation of an entire species of tree; but it is the fact that the Genuine Mahogany wood itself is very desirable with heavy demand from the commercial market.
Other species of trees tend to have much higher rates of reproduction, survival, growth, etc., making them far more abundant –at least, abundant enough to accommodate global market demand. Unfortunately, the nature of mahogany and the demand for its attributes has slowly forced it into becoming endangered. According to The Wood Database, the three variants listed by CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) are the Cuban, Mexican, and Honduran Mahogany as early as 1975.
However, after the Second World War, Honduran -better known as ‘genuine mahogany’- was also planted on the Islands of Fiji. The Fijian government has taken major steps to protect the species, which has provided a new opportunity for it to flourish and escape the illegal logging trade.
A Workable Alternative
This once-Honduran species is making a comeback. Through environmentally conscious and scientific logging methods, Fiji has an opportunity to meet the global demand for this extravagant hardwood.
Through sustainably operated mahogany plantations, Mahogany wood can keep the prices and delivery times low for the lumber. Companies like Green World Lumber are at the helm of pioneering ecologically responsible, cultivating and harvesting.
In collaboration with hardwood lumber refining and distribution companies operating domestically, the Fijian government has assured world leaders that the ‘ Swietenia Macrophylla’ species is not considered endangered by CITES. As a result of their hardwood forest development, the Fijian government has worked closely with local authorities and the indigenous population towards the goal of producing the least amount of environmental impact with the most benefit to the people they employ.
This could have several impactful positive effects, as not only does the sale of Genuine Mahogany wood provide revenue for the Fijian government and jobs for its people, but it would also provide a workable and exportable alternative to satisfy demand. This should also cause the illegal mahogany wood trade in Central America to suffer, allowing for Swietenia Macrophylla species to finally bounce back again. Simply put, mahogany’s existence on the black market has made it very profitable for illegal harvesters, but once there is a comparable cheaper and legal alternative, the risks would be far too high to justify the continuation of the illegal trade of genuine mahogany wood products.
Mahogany Wood Might Just Have a Chance
Mahogany woods beauty could still lead to its extinction. Though it’s a resilient building material that stands the test of time and wear, the species itself is not. It is a tree that struggles in its own natural environment, without even taking into account the human elements. When these two forces combine, it simply heralds the beginnings of extinction for the entire species – which is why Mexican mahogany wood, Honduran mahogany wood, and Cuban mahogany wood have already been listed as endangered.
But if the market is able to place its faith in the value of companies that operate responsibly by growing these Swietenia Macrophylla trees in a controlled environment, while also benefiting the local population and government –then not only will mahogany itself survive this critical time, but the entire world will reap the rewards. These pioneers who source outdoor hardwoods from sustainable forestry will provide a clear and resounding example to the rest of the world that it’s simply a better system; it also shows that working with the planet, not against it, is always better in the end.
Deforestation is the practice of extracting an immediate profit at the expense of future generations and natural biodiversity. Sustainable forestry is the practice of operating on the basis of environmental and civil responsibility, so that future generations can benefit from our efforts to build a better world.
The choice is clear.
 See Swietking.orgfor more information.  FAO Case Study No.6: Conservation and Use of Mahogany In Forest Ecosystems in Mexico.  CITES listings provided at Wood-Database.com.
Sustainable Fijian Mahogany is available in Toronto and can be purchased through Green World Lumber