Thursday, June 9, 2011

Khaya anthothetica (Red mahogany)

The stately Khaya anthotheca or Red mahogany is a magnificent, large evergreen that has been cultivated most successfully throughout the country. This imposing tree with it’s full rounded crown and tall buttressed trunk is attractive throughout the year. The sweetly scented trusses of white flowers that appear in spring and early summer attract numerous insects and birds while the white barred charaxes butterfly feeds on the larvae that are often found on the leaves of this tree. The dark green, glossy leaves are pleasing throughout the year while the bright red, young leaf growth adds interest in summer.
Botanical Name
Khaya anthotheca
Common Name
Red mahogany
RSA National Tree No’
Not indigenous
The fast growing Red mahogany is a superb choice for medium to large gardens where a permanently shaded area is to be established. This highly decorative tree will provide cool shade and protection for other plants as well as a welcome respite from the summer heat where a seating area is created beneath the neat, much branched canopy. This lovely, easy to grow tree is suitable for all except the very cold parts of the country, providing year round interest for the garden as well as for parks and landscaped public areas. Where a quick, formidable windbreak is required, Khaya anthotheca fits the bill perfectly. By ensuring that this handsome tree is planted in deep, well composted soil and is given adequate amounts of water while young, Red mahogany will reward you with a fast and beautiful addition to your landscape.
8m – 10m
Growth Habit
The Red mahogany occurs in deep well drained soils in evergreen and riverine forests at medium to low altitudes as well as the foothills of mountain ranges.
The smooth bark on the trunk and branches is greyish-brown, becoming flaky on older parts of the tree.
The leaves of the Khaya anthotheca are alternate, evenly compound, with 2-7 pairs of leaflets per leaf. Leaflets are between 150-300mm long. The tips are abruptly and shortly pointed. The leaves are dark glossy green above and pale green with distinct veins underneath. New leaf growth is red. 
The inconspicuous white, fragrant, flowers that appear from spring to late summer, are carried in sprays at the tips of the branches. The stamens form a tube up to 6mm long. Male and female flowers are separate but are carried on the same tree.
The ovoid fruit of the Red mahogany is pale brown, hard and woody and is divided into 4 or 5 valves. When ripe, the fruit splits open, releasing the seeds. The fruit appears from March to September.
The seeds that are released from the fruit are numerous and winged.
Growing regions
Khaya anthotheca is found in regions such as Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.
Growing conditions
Red mahogany prefers a semi shaded to sunny position with deep well drained soil.
Best season

Although Khaya anthotheca can withstand light frost it will perform better in a warmer more protected situation with moderate amounts of water.
These trees propagate easily from seed that has been soaked in warm water prior to planting. Sow in seed trays in a mixture of river sand and compost and keep moist. Germination takes between 2-6 weeks.
Growth rate
The Red mahogany grows fast, about 1 ½ m per year.
The magnificent dark red, fine grained, durable wood of the Red mahogany is widely used for furniture, flooring, paneling and boat building. The wood weathers well and is resistant to borer and termites. Throughout many parts of Africa indigenous peoples have traditionally used various parts of the tree for medicinal purposes. The bitter bark is used for the treatment of colds while the oil from the seeds is used as a body- oil as well as for the treatment of insects on the scalp. An infusion from the bark and seeds produces a dye. This tree is treated with great veneration in the Eastern Province where individual trees are often given specific names.

               K. anthotheca Bark                K. anthotheca Leaves            K. anthotheca Seed

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