Despite cutting, mahogany not
Many of the trees that have been
cut down lately to widen intersec-
tions in areas on Queen Mary High-
way were mahogany trees.
A couple of people have
approached me, wanting to know if
mahogany trees are endangered or
threatened if so many are being
destroyed. Muhoguny trees are not
on the endangered species list.
The U.S. Endangered Species
Act defines "endangered species" to
mean a species or subspecies that is
in imminent danger of extinction
throughout all or a significant por-
tion of its range. Threatened species
are those likely to become endan-
gered in the foreseeable future
unless current trends are reversed.
Such species as mahogany trees, if
endangered or threatened, would be
protected by federal or local laws.
This would mean that neither
parts of the plant or any product
from the plant could be taken, sold
or possessed. In 1990. the Virgin
Islands Legislature passed endan-
gered specie legislation known as
Indigenous and endangered Species
Act. This act authorizes the com-
missioner of Planning and Natural
Resources to list endangered and
threatened species in the Virgin
Islands and to enforce this law.
Mahogany is one of the world's
most prized woods because of its
color, strength, durability and work.
ing qualities. The mahogany genus '
includes three species (Swietenia
Macrophylla. S. Mahagoni, and S.
Humills). The West Indies
mahogany. or what is known as
small-leaf mahogany, once was
commonly planted in the Virgin
Islands as a shade tree along roads
and driveways and it is still used for
Davis Bay on St Croix had the
oldest mahogany plantation in the
Virgin Islands, established in 1908
by the Danes. This plantation was
destroyed when the Carambola
Hotel was built in the late 1980s.
Today, this plant has become
naturalized and grows throughout
most of St. Croix. This species of
mahogany was introduced to the
territory more than 200 years ago.
The alternate leaves have four to
10 pairs of shiny, green uneven-
sided, ovate- to lance-shaped
leaflets I to 2 inches long and %-
% inches broad. The trunk usually
is short and straight, with a large,
dense crown and relatively slow.
growth making this species a good
ornamental shade tree of 40 to 60
feet high. The fruit is i woody, egg-
or pear-shaped, erect, dark-brown
capsule 2% to 4 inches long, con-
taining numerous lat, long-winged
brown seeds. This tree flowers from
March to July. producing seeds
fiom January to March.
The wood is moderately hard,
heavy and strong. This tree also is
resistant to decay and attack from
dry-wood termites. This species is
considered to be superior in quality
and durability to Honduras
The big-leaf or Honduras
mahogany was introduced much
later on St. Croix as an experiment
throughout the island. The tree
reaches heights of 60 to 75 feet.
This tree prefers moist, well-
drained soil for bes growth. But it
grows fairly rapidly and withstands
drought. The aernate leaves have 6
to 12 pairs of uneven-sided, shiny,
geen, oval-elliptical leaflets 2% to
6 inches long.
s straight, ta trunk and large
crown make the big-leaf mahogany
a good ornamental shade tree. The
flowers are small, flagrant. green-
ish-yellow and grow in 4- to 6-inch
long clusters at the base of new
leaves. The woody fruit is a pear-
shaped, erect, brown capsule 4% to
TheDallyNews.Frid.ayAugust11, 1995 I
7 inches long, containing numerous
flat. long-winged. brown seeds. Th.
tree flowers in May and June. pr,
during seeds December to March
The wood is moderately lgh:
weight. strong and of medium t.
fine, uniform texture. Big-le;.
mahogany is resistant to decay A..
is generally resistant to dry-wot,.
On St. Croix. a natural hybr,,
between the West Indies mahogan:
and Honduras mahogany has bee
found. It is known as medium-leal
mahogany because its leaves an,:
fruit are intermediate in siz-
between the two parent species
This hybrid has combined the fast
growth of Honduras mahogany with
the drought resistance and supenor
quality of the West Indies tree.
Research is being conducted on
mahoganies at the University of the
Virgin Islands' Agricultural Experi-
ment Station on St. Croix to ensure
that these prized trees will grow for
many years to come In these
islands. Believe me, mahogany
Olasee Davis, who holds a mas-
tr of science degree in range man-
agement andforestry ecology. is a
St. Croix ecologist, activist and