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Meliaceae, Swietenia humilis, Pacific Coast Mahogany, Mexican Mahogany, Caoba – Jalisco, Mexico

February 25, 2013

Swietenia humilis, the Pacific Coast Mahogany… Other names include: zopilote, zapaton, venadillo, gateado, cobano, coabilla, caoba del Pacifico.

S. humilis is a medium sized deciduous tree, growing 15 – 20 m in height. Native to the drier areas of the western Sierra Madre mountain range from Mexico through Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. Typically found in dry deciduous forest, savanna, rough scrub, rocky hillsides and cultivated fields.

Large wild specimens are rare. S. humilis is protected under the multilateral treaty CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) lists S. humilis in Appendix II (all parts and derivatives except seeds). Also it is categorized in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (Version 2011.2).

The somewhat fragrant flowers provide bee forage. Timber is valued for use in carpentry and general construction.

S. humilis is suitable to plant a long slopes for erosion control, the leaf litter enhances soil fertility.  Generally the tree is highly suitable for dryland reforestation, restoration and agroforestry programs.

Medicinally, the seeds (in limited quantities) are used to treat chest pains, coughs, cancer and amoebiasis, as well as for their anthelmintic properties. Pharmacological studies of the seeds and bark have been ongoing since the 1990s. The bark and seeds possess a stringent alkaloid reputed to be very poisonous.

I took this photo in Jalisco, Mexico. I’ll get a photo of the whole tree next time.

Swetienia humilis, leaf

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2013 10:08:10 pm

    Another amazing and most versatile tree. No doubt the alkaloids protect it from pests, however the mere mention of the word “alkaloid” and our aging Californaian hippy friend’s ears prick up ;). Lucky they don’t grow endemically here or he might be 6 feet under! He is researching the use of acacias in the production of “interesting results” as his usual adventures with his “herb” of choice is now something that the local constabulary are very VERY interested in ;). Again, I love these posts, they really enlighten us as to what is out there and what these amazing trees are worth in medicinal, food and landcare applications. Most of them, we would never have heard of if we didn’t see them here. Cheers for sharing 🙂

  2. February 27, 2013 10:08:27 am

    Some Acacia species do indeed have interesting medicinal uses/applications, aside from being nitrogen fixing and largely drought tolerant.

    Thank you again for the apprciation. Stay tuned, I’ll be doing more posts on dry – topical tree species from Pacific Coast of Mexico/Central America.

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