Swietenia humilis

Invasive species Disclaimer

In view of the fact that some tree species are invasive, the world Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has put in place a policy document on Invasive Alien Species, currently under draft available at Here.

For more information on this subject, please refer to
100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.

Species Index    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Multiple Criteria Search

Abelmoschus moschatus
Acacia aneura
Acacia angustissima
Acacia aulacocarpa
Acacia auriculiformis
Acacia catechu
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia crassicarpa
Acacia elatior
Acacia erioloba
Acacia etbaica
Acacia ferruginea
Acacia glauca
Acacia holosericea
Acacia karroo*
Acacia koa
Acacia laeta
Acacia lahai
Acacia leptocarpa
Acacia leucophloea
Acacia mangium
Acacia mearnsii*
Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia mellifera
Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
Acacia pachycarpa
Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
Acacia saligna
Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
Acacia tortilis
Acacia xanthophloea
Acrocarpus fraxinifolius
Adansonia digitata
Adenanthera pavonina
Aegle marmelos
Afzelia africana
Afzelia quanzensis
Agathis macrophylla
Agathis philippinensis
Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus excelsa
Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
Aleurites moluccana
Allanblackia floribunda
Allanblackia stuhlmannii
Allanblackia ulugurensis
Alnus acuminata
Alnus cordata
Alnus japonica
Alnus nepalensis
Alnus rubra
Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alstonia boonei
Alstonia congensis
Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
Annona cherimola
Annona muricata
Annona reticulata
Annona senegalensis
Annona squamosa
Anogeissus latifolia
Anthocephalus cadamba
Antiaris toxicaria
Antidesma bunius
Araucaria bidwillii
Araucaria cunninghamii
Arbutus unedo
Areca catechu
Arenga pinnata
Argania spinosa
Artemisia annua
Artocarpus altilis
Artocarpus camansi
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Artocarpus integer
Artocarpus lakoocha
Artocarpus mariannensis
Asimina triloba
Ateleia herbert-smithii
Aucomea klaineana
Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa carambola
Azadirachta excelsa
Azadirachta indica
Azanza garckeana
Related Links
Tree: Medium-sized specimen of S. humilis, 15 m in height, growing in degraded seasonally dry tropical forest (Comayagua Valley, central Honduras).
© Colin Hughes
Tree: Medium-sized (20 m) specimen of S. humili, kept and protected for timber production after forest clearance for agriculture (San Jose La Arada, Chiquimula, south-east Guatemala).
© Colin Hughes
Seed capsule: Ripe fruit (capsule) of S. humilis just starting to dehisce. Up to 15 cm long.
© Colin Hughes
Seed capsules: Dehiscing capsules showing the ripe, orange-brown, winged seeds which are dispersed by wind.
© Colin Hughes
Seed capsules: Seed collection of S. humilis in central Honduras. The ripe fruits are sun dried to promote dehiscence. Seeds have a terminal wing (6-9 cm long) (Martínez, 1984) and the mean number of seeds per kg averages 1603(Patiño Valera et al.,1983)
© Colin Hughes

Local names:
English (Pacific mahogany,dry zone mahogany), Spanish (zopilote,zapaton,venadillo,gateado,cobano,coabilla,caoba del Pacifico), Trade name (precious tropical wood)

Swietenia humilis is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree 15-20 m tall. Bole short, often crooked, unbuttressed, from 30-50 cm in diameter and with a dark-grey or brownish-black, longitudinally fissured bark and in older specimens rough and flaking. Young branches glabrous, slender with small roundish, brown lenticels.

Leaves clustered at ends of branchlets, usually paripinnate rarely imparipinnate, sometimes with an abortive terminal leaflet, 12-30 cm long; rachis glabrous, pulvinus swollen. Leaflets opposite or sub-opposite, sessile or sub-sessile, 2-7 pairs, usually ovate to elliptic-ovate sometimes ovate-lanceolate, apex caudate or long acuminate, extended into a slender filiform thread, base rounded or acute, slightly asymmetric chartaceous, waxy, 4.5-14 cm long, 1.75-4.5 cm broad, upper and lower surfaces glabrous. Venation reticulate, secondary venation raised and prominent on both surfaces.

Flowers unisexual, but the male and female flowers are very similar. Inflorescence usually axillary sometimes sub-terminal, 4-18 cm long, erect or spreading, much shorter than leaves, terminal thyrses often densely clustered, glabrous. Calyx 5-lobed, lobes obtuse, deltate to sub-orbicular, 0.5-1 mm long, margin ciliolate. Numerous small nectaries are found on the petiole, rachis, petiolules and both surfaces of all leaflets of the pinnate compound leaves. They are circular to elongate with a smooth secretory surface. Petals 5, free, slightly contorted in bud, 5.5-7.5 mm long, 2.5-3 mm broad, lingulate to obovate, glabrous, margin ciliolate. Staminal tube cylindrical or urceolate, slightly constricted at throat, 3-5.5 mm long, terminated by 10 short acuminate or narrowly deltate appendages, glabrous inside and out; anthers or antherodes 10, sessile contained within mouth of tube.

Ovary 4-5 locular with 10-16 ovules, style very short and glandular, 1-1.5 mm long with a discoid style-head. Pistillode in male flower more slender, narrowly cylindrical with well-developed loculi but rudimentary ovules. Style 2-3 mm long, with a thin head.

Fruit an erect capsule, ovoid, sometimes elongate-ovoid with a short umbo, pale greyish brown, smooth or indistinctly pitted, 8-20 cm long, 10-12 cm in diameter, 4-5 valved, outer valves very woody, 5-7 mm thick, inner valves much thinner, mottled pale brown and white. Seeds pale straw-brown, 6-9 cm long including wing. The specific epithet ‘humilis’ literally describes its low height in comparison to other mahogany species. S. humilis is listed as an endangered species in need of conservation in Appendix II of CITES.


S. humilis is fairly common in tropical dry deciduous forest and savanna, in rough scrub, on rocky hillsides and in cultivated fields from 0-1 200 m altitude.

Native range
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico

Tree management

Planting in the rains is favourable for S. humilis and initial survival of S. humilis, is higher under shade.

Seeds storage is orthodox, S. humilis seeds are predicted to survive well for 266 years under optimal storage conditions.

S. humilis is fairly common in tropical dry deciduous forest and savanna, in rough scrub, on rocky hillsides and in cultivated fields from 0-1 200 m altitude.

Direct seeding is a popular method. Stumps of 5 cm of stem, 15 cm of root can be used to raise S. humilis, increasing stump diameter seems a critical factor for survival.

Poison:  The bark and seeds possess a stringent alkaloid, reputed to be very poisonous. The extracts significantly inhibited the growth and feeding of third instar larvae of Tenebrio molitor.

Dry zone mahogany is a suitable candidate for dryland forestation programmes.

Erosion control:  The tree can be planted along valleys to prevent soil erosion.

Apiculture: The faintly fragrant flowers are visited by bees.

Timber:  The heavy timber is used in local carpentry.

Shade or shelter:  Zopilote is a good shade provider.

Medicine:  The seeds of S. humilis are used in traditional medicine to treat chest pains, coughs, cancer and amoebiasis, and for their anthelmintic properties. The tetranortriterpenoids humilinolide A from the S. humilis seeds induces smooth muscle (ileal and uterine) contraction.

Gum or resin:  A colourless gum exudes from the branches and trunk of the dry zone mahogany.

Ornamental:  The tree is aesthetically enhancing.

Soil improver:  Leaf litter from S. humilis enhances soil fertility.

Intercropping:  Can be planted in farm systems or plantations as an agroforestry tree. Allelopathic effects are noted for humilinolide A and C (from the seeds), they significantly inhibited radicle elongation in Amaranthus hypochondriacus and Echinochloa crus-galli.