The three species are:
While the three Swietenia species are classified officially as "genuine mahogany", other Meliaceae species with timber uses are classified as "true mahogany." (Only the Swietenia species can be called "genuine mahogany.") Some may or may not have the word mahogany in their trade or common name. Some of these true mahoganies include the African genera Khaya and Entandrophragma; New Zealand mahogany or kohekohe (Dysoxylum spectabile); Chinese mahogany, Toona sinensis; Indonesian mahogany, Toona sureni; Indian mahogany, Toona ciliata; Chinaberry, Melia azedarach; Pink Mahogany (or Bosse), Guarea; Chittagong (also known as Indian Mahogany), Chukrasia velutina; and Crabwood Carapa guianensis. Some members of the genus Shorea (Meranti, Balau, or Lauan) of the family Dipterocarpaceae are also sometimes sold as Philippine mahogany, although the name is more properly applied to another species of Toona, Toona calantas.
Mahogany is a commercially important lumber prized for its beauty, durability, and color, and used for paneling and to make furniture, boats, musical instruments and other items. The leading importer of mahogany is the United States, followed by Britain; while the largest exporter today is Peru, which surpassed Brazil after that country banned mahogany exports in 2001. It is estimated that some 80 or 90 percent of Peruvian mahogany exported to the United States is illegally harvested, with the economic cost of illegal logging in Peru placed conservatively at $40–70 million USD annually. It was estimated that in 2000, some 57,000 mahogany trees were harvested to supply the U.S. furniture trade alone.
Mahogany is the national tree of the Dominican Republic and Belize. A mahogany tree with two woodcutters bearing an axe and a paddle also appears on the Belizean national coat of arms, under the national motto, Sub umbra floreo, Latin for "under the shade I flourish."
The natural distribution of these species within the Americas is geographically distinct. S. mahagoni grows on the West Indian islands as far north as the Bahamas, the Florida Keys and parts of Florida; S. humilis grows in the dry regions of the Pacific coast of Central America from south-western Mexico to Costa Rica; S. macrophylla grows in Central America from Yucatan southwards and into South America, extending as far as Peru, Bolivia and extreme western Brazil. In the 20th century various botanists attempted to further define S. macrophylla in South America as a new species, such as S. candollei Pittier and S. tessmannii Harms., but many authorities consider these spurious. According to Record and Hess, all of the mahogany of continental North and South America can be considered as one botanical species, Swietenia macrophylla King.