The A – Z of Trees : African Mahogany (Khaya genus) [Series]

Above photo By Andrew massyn – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4607724

Not to be confused with Sapele and Utile trees, the African Mahogany I’m focusing on in this article are from the Khaya Genus of trees, specifically:

  • Khaya Madagascariensis
  • Khaya Ivorensis
  • Khaya Grandifoliola
  • Khaya Anthotheca
  • Khaya Senegalensis

Colours of these woods vary greatly from a dark reddish brown to a rather pale pink.

 

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The leaves of the Khaya Madagascarensis.

 

Above photo By Axel Strauß (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Khaya Madagascarensis

The Khaya Madagascarensis is found, no surprise, in Northern and Eastern Madagascar. An evergreen tree  it produces valuable timber and is known for its local medicinal use. It is reddish brown in colour and its timber uses include fine furniture, carving and its trunk is traditionally used for canoes. Unfortunately, it has been overexploited for its timber and has lost its natural habitat due to human activity, this has led to it being classified as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

 

Khaya Ivorensis

The Khaya Ivorensis grows in Gabon, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Angola; the tropical areas of Western Africa. The heartwood is a pale reddish brown and its timber is used for fine furniture and also for boat and ship construction. Its medicinal uses include being used in the treatment of whooping cough, diarrhoea, dysentery, back pain and rheumatism. Much like the Madagascarensis, Khaya Ivorensis is also under threat and is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.

 

Khaya Grandifoliola

The Khaya Grandifoliola grows in Guinea-Bissau, Sudan and the Congo and is mainly a deciduous species in the dry season. The heartwood which darkens to a reddish brown after exposure is pinkish brown when first cut. The timber is used for fine furniture, veneer, ship building, toys, musical instruments and is traditionally used for furniture, canoes and household items. Medicinally the bark can be used as a washing cloth, as a treatment for the fever caused by malaria and also the treatment of gastric ulcers. A gum from the bark is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a slow release for tablets. Once again due to the high exploitation of this highly desired tree the IUCN list it as vulnerable.

 

Khaya Anthotheca

Also known as White Mahogany the Khaya Anthotheca is a semi deciduous tree found in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Angola and Mozambique. The heartwood can be a pinkish brown to copper red and is used for veneer and furniture making, traditionally the logs are carved out to form canoes. It can also be used to make charcoal. The bark is used traditionally to treat abdominal pain, gonorrhoea, colds and fevers. Lice can also be treated when oil from the seeds is rubbed into the hair. The bark is also sometimes used to treat ulcers and wounds and when pulverised is even used to combat male impotence and as an aphrodisiac. The IUCN rates the Khaya Anthotheca as vulnerable due to its heavy exploitation.

 

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The flower of the Khaya Senegalensis

Above photo By Forestowlet – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33446266

Khaya Senegalensis

Found in Senegal, Sudan and Uganda, the evergreen tree Khaya Senegalensis has a dark red brown colour heartwood, sometimes with a hint of purple. The timber is used for fine furniture and boat building. Locally the wood is used for turning and railroad ties among other things. Once again the bitter bark is reported to be successful in the treating of fever but also syphilis. Bark extract is used as a disinfectant for various ailments. Unfortunately I have to once again type that this tree is also listed as vulnerable by the IUCN due to poor control of logging practices.

In Darwin, Australia there have been cases of falling branches of the African Mahogany killing people below when poorly maintained, as reported by NT News among others (African Mahogany in Darwin). One man was killed by a falling branch whilst on a golf course and a school boy was killed in the school playground in similar circumstances. It is theorised that planting African Mahogany trees in a wetter climate than their natural dry habitat causes them to grow larger faster, making them unstable.

What have I learnt about African Mahogany whilst writing this article? Well, mostly that its cultivation is poorly managed and this has unfortunately, though perhaps not unexpectedly, lead to it becoming a currently vulnerable species and perhaps soon to be endangered. I’ve also learnt that the Khaya genus produces great quality wood which is also stunningly gorgeous whilst also at the same time producing bark, oils and gum used in many kinds of medicines. Hopefully these trees will be around for many generations to come and I would think its our responsibility to make sure this is the case.

Thank you for checking out this blog post, please head on over to my Facebook Page to check out all the various things I get up to in the woodworking world.

Previous article in this series can be found here The A – Z of Trees : Acacia [Series]

 

Sources:

  • hardwoodtogo.net
  • ntnews.com.au
  • tropical.theferns.info
  • greenpeace.org.uk

 

The A – Z of Trees : Acacia [Series]

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Acacia Koa – Found most commonly in Hawaii

Above photo by Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6129520

Seeing as I’m constantly fascinated with different trees, not just from a woodworking perspective but with the amazing abilities they have and what they provide to the world, I thought I would start a series to improve my knowledge on them and write what I find. The A-Z of Trees will be about trees from all over the world, starting with the Acacia tree.

The Acacia is a genus of trees with over a 1,000 different species world wide spread over sub tropical regions. Over half of the species grow in Australia, they also grow in Africa, Central America, Hawaii, South Western US and Mexico.

The flowers of the Acacia are usually yellow though they are sometimes white, they’re shaped like little pom poms. Most species of the Acacia tree have fern like leaves, opposite each other along a thing stem.

 

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Yellow flowers of the Acacia Tetragonophylla – Found in Australia

Above photo by Melburnian – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1801492

One of the more usable trees, the Acacia Senegal, is found in the Northern Sahara and is the main source of Gum Arabic. Sweets, medicines, paints and watercolours are all made with Gum Arabic and it is also used in the production of paper, silk and cosmetics.

There is some controversy over this substance however, the troubled nation of Sudan supplies around 70-80% of the worlds Gum Arabic. It is used as a stabiliser in soft drinks to bind the sugar to the drink, preventing it from crystallising. When The Sudan had sanctions brought upon it by the US government in 1997 for the former giving refuge to Islamic terrorists, the only product exempt from an export band was Gum Arabic, such is its value to the US economy. According to an article on TheGuardian.com, Coca Cola and Pepsi are still vague as to its usage within their beverages.

Now what we really want to know, what are the properties of Acacia wood and what can it be used for?

Acacia wood is strong and solid, hard to scratch and is also water resistant. These properties make it ideal for:

  • Outdoor furniture
  • Hard wearing furniture and items
  • Ideal for shelving, can take a lot of weight
  • Flooring
  • Cutting boards

Of course these are just a few examples, I’m sure your mind can come up with all kinds of ideas for this rugged and durable wood. Many species of Acacia have a deep brown colour when cut, the Acacia Koa pictured above being one of those.

 

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Acacia Melanoxylon – Found in Australia

 

Above photo by Júlio Reis (User:Tintazul) – Original File, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=637594

A fast growing species called Acacia Melanoxylon (also known as Australian Blackwood, pictured above) is sought after for furniture building due to its rapid growth and strength. Its said to be able to easily gain 90cm (3ft) in height per year. It is also used for inlays, bent work and it has good acoustic qualities which make it ideal for guitar building.

I hope you enjoyed the first entry into the A – Z of trees, next in the series can be found here The A – Z of Trees : African Mahogany (Khaya genus) [Series].

Sources:

  • florabank.org.au
  • reference.com
  • theguardian.com
  • afktravel.com
  • 2020site.org