Mahogany consists of three species in the genus Swietenia in the family Meliaceae – Honduras mahogany (Swietenia humilis), bigleaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), and American mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni).  Mahogany is native to the Caribbean and Central and South American lowland tropical or subtropical forests where rainfall averages between 1 and 2.5 meters.  It was used to patch ship planks for Hernando Cortez in 1514 and is still widely harvested today with the United States being the largest importer.

It is a strong, hard wood with a red hue and fine grain pattern, making it ideal for use in furniture, doors, paneling, musical instruments, ships, caskets, veneer, and plywood.  

Laws & Regulations


West Indian mahogany seedlings
Credit: Gary M. Stolz/USFWS

Due to strong demand for the wood of these relatively slow-growing trees, all three species have been listed in the Appendices to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Honduras and American mahoganies supplied the world’s markets for quality wood for centuries, but the two species are no longer widely logged for commercial trade and are considered commercially extinct throughout much of their ranges.  By the time Honduras and American mahoganies were listed in Appendix II of CITES, very little commercial trade still occurred.  

The Appendix-II listing of bigleaf mahogany is intended to ensure that trade in that species is based on sustainable harvest and to address the threats of unregulated trade and illegal harvest.  The listing is limited to logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, and plywood, not other parts, derivatives, and products, such as furniture.

The listing of bigleaf mahogany includes only populations in the Neotropics.  Therefore, bigleaf mahogany grown on plantations outside of the Neotropics is not regulated under CITES. Today most plantations are located in Indonesia and Fiji.  Historically, plantation-grown wood has not been common in trade.

The listed American mahoganies of the genus Swietenia should not be confused with other tropical tree species with reddish wood that are commonly called “mahogany.”  Philippine mahogany is a name given to some of the different species of the genus, Shorea, that grow in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  African mahogany refers to several species of the genus, Khaya, that grow throughout West Africa.  Santos mahogany (Myroxylon balsamum) ranges from southern Mexico to Argentina.  None of these “mahoganies” are listed in the CITES Appendices.

To read more about the listing history of mahogany and its current status, click here.

For older articles and reports on mahogany, visit the Archives page.

For information on importing or exporting Mahogany, visit our Branch of Permits page.