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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Meliaceae (mahoganies)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Sapindales

Fifty-two genera and 621 species, mainly tropical in distribution. Nine genera and 21 species native to southern Africa, an additional three genera and three species are naturalised, and an additional eight genera and 10 species are cultivated in the region.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Archer (2000).


The four species are native to Africa, with three native to southern Africa.


About 11 species, native to Africa, with two species native to southern Africa and a further species, Entandrophragma utile (Sapele mahogany), cultivated in the region.

Khaya (African mahoganies)

About seven species, native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. Khaya anthotheca [= Khaya nyasica] is native to Zimbabwe. Khaya senegalensis (Senegal mahogany) is cultivated in the region but is not naturalised.


Two species distributed in tropical Africa, of which one Lovoa swynnertonii is native to southern Africa (Zimbabwe and Mozambique).


The only species, Nymania capensis (Chinese lanterns), is endemic to southern Africa.


One species, Pseudobersama mossambicensis, native to tropical and subtropical East Africa, extending as far south as northern KwaZulu-Natal.


About 85 species, native to tropics and subtropics (mainly America), with three species native to southern Africa.


About 50 species, native to Africa, Madagascar, the Mascarenes and the Comores, with eight species native to southern Africa.


One species native to southern Africa - Xylocarpus granatum.

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

List from Archer (2000).


About eight species, native to the Neotropics. West Indian Cedar Cedrela odorata (native from Mexico to Ecuador) is grown as a timber tree in southern Africa and has become naturalised.


About 3-5 species, native from India to China, SE Asia, and Australia. Melia azedarach (Seringa or Persina Lilac) (see Flora of Zimbabwe) is widely grown in southern African parks and gardens (despite the fruit being highly toxic), and has become naturalised and a weed in many places (mainly savanna, roadsides, urban spaces, wasteland and along river banks). 


About six species, native from Indomalaysian region through to northern Australia. Toona ciliata (Toon tree, Toonboom) has been grown as a timber and ornamental tree in southern Africa and has become naturalised in the eastern region. It is a declared Category 3 invader plant in South Africa.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). Each of these genera are only represented by one species in southern Africa, so the species are listed instead.

Aphanamixis polystachya

Native from India to the Philippines.


Azadirachta indica (Neem, Margosa)

Native to Burma. See Wikipedia

Carapa procera (Uganda crabwood)

Native to tropical Africa.


Chukrasia tabularis (Indian mahogany)

Native from Sri Lanka to China.


Dysoxylum parasiticum

Native to New Guinea. See PNGTrees


Lovoa swynnertonii (False sapele)

Native to tropical Africa.


Owenia acidula (Emu apple, Sour plum)

Native to eastern Australia.


Swietenia mahagoni (Spanish mahogany, West Indian mahogany)

Native to the USA (Florida), The Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola.



  • Archer, R.H. 2000. Meliaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 353-356. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.