Chinese Mahogany

Chinese Mahogany

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Scientific Name:
Toona sinensis
Edinburgh, E03 Map
Adopted, available Sep 2028

This deciduous tree is native to eastern and south-eastern Asia, and was first introduced to Britain in 1862. It was not until the late 1990’s that the species gained its common name, indicating its membership to the mahogany family (Meliaceae). The fruit, bark, wood and roots are used widely in China for numerous purposes, including as a vegetable, in traditional Chinese medicine and in timber and furniture manufacture. It is also commonly burnt in temples, releasing a delicate, sweet scent.

Toona sinensis grows to 25 m tall with a trunk up to 70 cm in diameter. Younger trees have smooth, brown bark which becomes scaly and shaggy in older specimens. Its beautiful white or pale pink flowers emerge in July, in pendulous, sweetly-scented clusters; these develop into capsule-like fruits, each containing several winged seeds. In recent years the species has been cultivated in greenhouses and tunnels, to meet the extensive demand for its use in cooking and the furniture industry. The fresh vegetable is popular in Chinese markets, especially during holiday seasons such as Chinese New Year. In the UK, Toona sinensis is favoured for ornamental use in gardens, on account of its attractive spring foliage and colourful summer blossom.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)