Big-leaf Mahogany

Swietenia macrophylla

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Cause of Decline: Overexploitation

Location: South America

Collection: Plants

FMNH catalogue no. 617684

The Big-leaf mahogany is a slow-growing tree that can reach 195 feet (60 meters) in height, living up to 350 years. The species was formerly found across southern Mexico down into Bolivia and Brazil. Big-leaf mahogany timber has been prized for centuries, a tradition that was begun by the Spanish in the 1500s and has caused the commercial extinction of two other mahogany species in its genus.

Given its value and status as the last remaining species of mahogany, forestry roads are built extensively into dense forests to access the trees, entailing a 70 percent decline in the species since the 1950s. Big-leaf mahogany has been protected under CITES, however, ‘wood-pirates’ operating in vast criminal networks continue to operate in Bolivia and other areas where export of the timber has been banned. A UN and Interpol report from 2016 highlighted an upper estimate for the global value of forestry crimes at $152 billion per year.

Big leaf Mahogany plant botany Swietenia macrophylla - Extinction

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