The great annual mahogany leaf drop

Nothing could be more disturbing than the sudden yellowing, browning and dropping of all the leaves from

a large tree with yellowing leaves
A mahogany tree in the middle of leaf drop.

a seemingly evergreen tree!  This happens every year about this time as the seasons change for one tree – the mahogany.  Not to fret – this is perfectly normal with this wonderful, majestic tree.

The mahogany is a tall landscape tree known to provide wonderful, dappled shade.   Suitable to the warmer regions of Charlotte County in Hardiness zone 10a near the coast, mahogany also has good salt and drought-tolerance.  Locally growing upwards to forty feet tall with a similar spread, mahogany does best in full sun to part shade locations in well-drained soil.   Plant at least twenty feet away from buildings due to the large spreading roots.  Hardscapes such as sidewalks and curbs may also be lifted by mahogany tree roots as close as six feet away.  As such, “plan before you plant” this massive, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approved tree.

While mahogany trees are native to extreme southern Florida, they can be grown in our area with some considerations.  Early training will help mahogany trees better withstand winds.  Work to develop one central trunk and several good structurally sound scaffold branches for better wind resistance.  This tree also produces large seed capsules up to five inches in size that open when mature and drop winged seeds.  Many of the scattered seeds geminate during the rainy season under the tree.  This, coupled with the abundance of leaf litter at this time of year, is considered messy by some people.  Not to fear – the leaves are small and easily cleaned up.

And speaking of the leaf litter, this is a once-a-year temporary event.  The leaflets of each leaf turn yellow and brown as they shed from March through May each year.  This semi-deciduous condition is rapidly followed by a flush of brand new, bright green leaves.  But in the meantime, the stark appearance of the mahogany in transition can be shocking and trigger an alert that something is wrong.  Just be patient, all will return to normal in due time.

Mahogany trees are a great addition to a landscape when properly placed.  The short-term quirk of leaf drop is a minor characteristic which should not overshadow its appeal and splendor!  For more information on shade trees suitable for our area, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteCountyExtension .   You can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
Brown, S. H. & Mason, B., Master Gardener Mahogany: Swietenia mahagoni.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS – Lee County.
Gilman, E. F.,  Watson, D. G., Klein, R. W., Koeser, A. K., Hilbert, D. R., & McLean,  D. C. (2019)  Swietenia mahagoni : Mahogany.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.
Landre, C. (2022) .  Mahogany Tree.  South-Florida-Plant-Guide.com.

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Posted: June 8, 2022


Category: Home Landscapes
Tags: Mahogany


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