Khaya is a genus of five species of trees in the mahogany family Meliaceae. The timber of Khaya is called African mahogany, and is valued as a substitute to genuine mahogany (of the genus Swietenia).[1]

Khaya senegalensis in habitat
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Meliaceae
Subfamily: Cedreloideae
Genus: Khaya

See text


The species are native to tropical Africa and Madagascar. All species grow to around 30–35m tall, rarely 45m, with a trunk over 1m diameter, often buttressed at the base.

The leaves are pinnate, with 4-6 pairs of leaflets, the terminal leaflet absent; each leaflet is 10–15 cm long abruptly rounded toward the apex but often with an acuminate tip. The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen depending on the species. The flowers are produced in loose inflorescences, each flower small, with four or five yellowish petals and ten stamens. The fruit is a globose four or five-valved capsule 5–8 cm diameter, containing numerous winged seeds.



The timber of Khaya is called "African mahogany", with properties generally regarded as the closest to genuine mahogany.[2]

Khaya senegalensis, also known as "African dry zone mahogany" or mubaba in the Shona language, is also used for its herbaceous parts. In west Africa, Fulani herdmen prune the tree during the dry season to feed cattle. In addition, the bark of K. senegalensis is often harvested from natural populations as well as plantations and used to treat many diseases. The seeds of K. senegalensis have an oil content of 52.5%, consisting of 21% palmitic acid, 10% stearic acid, 65% oleic acid, and 4% "unidentifiable acid" [3]

The durable reddish-brown wood of K. anthotheca is used for dug-out canoes or makoros and as a general beam, door frame and shelving timber which is termite and borer resistant.[4]

Some drum companies, as Premier, used khaya wood for making drums in the mid-70s. However, it was too expensive, so they switched to using other materials such as maple and birch.


  1. African Mahogany - The Wood Database
  2. Mahogany Mixups: the Lowdown - The Wood Database
  3. Okieimen, F.E; Eromosele, C.O (1999). "Fatty acid composition of the seed oil of Khaya senegalensis". Bioresource Technology. 69 (3): 279–280. doi:10.1016/S0960-8524(98)00190-4.
  4. Joffe, Pitta: (2007), Indigenous Plants of South Africa, Briza Publications, pg 123
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