Monday, 17 December 2012

Khaya senegalensis

Khaya senegalensis which is also known as African mahogany is native to Tropical West Africa and from the family Meliaceae.

This large and tall tree is semi-deciduous. With a large rounded bushy dark green crown, it reaches a height of 30m.

The compound leaves are alternate and are about 50-70cm long. Each compound leaf consists of 3-7 leaflets. The leaflets are usually in opposite pairs, oblong in shape, at about 4-12cm in length and 2-5 cm in width. They are dark green and glossy on the upper side and light green on the underside.

The flowers are very small they measure up to less than 1cm in width and are pollinated by insects. Born in clusters known as lax (loosely arranged parts), they are pale white or cream in colour. Each flower has 5 small petals and measure about 4mm in length and 2.5mm in width. This tree flowers irregularly in Singapore, possibly because flowering is triggered by the onset of the rainy season in its native habitat, but there is no distinct rainy season in Singapore.

The fruit is an upright, almost spherical, woody capsule. It measures from 4-6 cm in diameter, opening by 4 valves from the apex (pointed end of an object). The fruit colour changes from grey to black as it ripens and begins to bear seeds once the tree reaches 20 to 25 years old.

The seeds have brown wings at two ends that are arranged horizontally. Each fruit contains numerous seeds from 6 or more per cell. They are flat and oval, about 25mm in length and 18mm in width.

The Khaya is one of the hardest African mahoganies and the hardest of the Khaya species. Because of its decorative appearance, the wood is a very popular timber, sapwood is pinkish-tan in colour while the heartwood an attractive dark red-brown. The seeds and leaves are used for treating fever and headache.

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