tropical hardwoods

macocael

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The Dominican Republic is famous for its hardwood, two types of which, Guayac?n (lignum vitae) and Caoba (mahogany), were responsible for keeping this island afloat economically when it was essentially abandoned by Spain and left to its own resources. (well, that and cattle)

You can still find Taino artefacts carved from these woods, which are incredibly dense and durable. There are others as well, but those two are the most well known.

It appears as well that Dominican mahogany is the very best, and that which comes from other places, such as Indonesia, is not quite as good. However, much of what you see here advertised as Caoba is not Caoba, because there are laws now prohibiting people from cutting down the few trees that are left (you can of course obtain the real stuff too). The furniture salespeople use other woods and then paint them dark. That dark color is not natural to the wood by the way. This type of staining was used in the 19th century for much mahogany wood, and thus the tradition is to stain it dark. with time, of course, the wood itself will take on a dark patina, but when you cut open a piece of mahogany you will find that the wood has a beautiful almost cherry tone to it. The darkness comes from the very very tight grain, which appears like black specks everywhere. I got hold of an old trapiche of pure mahogany (they sell for over 2000 US in NYC) and sanded it down, then oiled it, and now a few years later the thing has a beautiful deep brown luster, but with a distinct reddish cast.

There are also projects under way to begin cultivating mahogany, as they do in other countries, on "farms" for harvesting.

If you are interested in growing these hardwoods yourself, then by all means give it a go. The people at the Botanical Gardens can probably help you. One other wood you should look into is the Ebano Verde, a member of themagnolia family unique to this island.
 

M.A.R.

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Feb 18, 2006
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hifiman said:
WOW...suprisenly I found that very interesting.
so did I it!!! that reply about wood and trees could have been boring but for some reason Macocael makes it sound very interesting, Macocael you know too much, hehe :cheeky:
 

rallimike

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Feb 23, 2004
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Thanks for the replies. Yes, I'm interested in farming them. Just using the 'net to research the possibilities. You've given me more to research.
 

macocael

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Rallimike, keep us posted on your research, or PM me from time to time. I am very interested too in the possibility of farming such trees, though I know that I myself will never get around to it. No time. But these are worthwhile projects so I like to see them undertaken by others. Good luck. I do think the Botanical Gardens might be of some help.

M.A.R. et al. yeah sorry about the disquisition, I didnt want to get carried away there. You have to admit that the trees on this island are some of the most beautiful in the world. I have never seen their equal, except maybe in the Joshua National Monument park and the sequoias in California. But man we have amazing trees here. Just go to the Parque Colon one day and look at the four trees that occupy each corner of the plaza. They are enormous and older than Columbus. Or take a look at the mammoth tree located in the southwest corner of the Cultural Plaza right across from the American consulate and the Archbishop's residence. I dont think i have ever seen such massive branches on a tree before. This is a helluva an island we live on.
 
G

gary short

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rallimike said:
Will teak, mahogany, etc. grow in the DR?
Ever consider cedar. Also a friend of mine has a big crab boat built out of Santa Maria, it's as hard as ironwood and looks just like mahogany......from Central America....often marketed there as mahogany. It's worth the price of gold.
 

flo

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i have done a lot of research about caoba Swietenia mahogani or so called caoba/mahagoni and i have been in contact with the dominican authorities about growing.
I also have located cheap land which would suit to grow this kind of wood
At the moment the main reason why all the wood is beeing imported is that the dominicans dont seem to have the technology to dry the wood properly which makes it very dificult to process it.

the advantage caoba has to other trees as cedar etc is that depening on soil conditions, fertilizers etc. you can harvest within 15 years.

contact me anytime, I may also be interested in a partnership !
 

flo

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this is a little info i found doing research, which gives an idea about the huge demand the dr has for wood.

La Rep?blica Dominicana importa alrededor de US$200 millones en madera de diferentes tipos. El crecimiento de esta demanda se mantiene sostenida con un crecimiento de 11% anual.
 

macocael

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flo said:
i have done a lot of research about caoba Swietenia mahogani or so called caoba/mahagoni and i have been in contact with the dominican authorities about growing.
I also have located cheap land which would suit to grow this kind of wood
At the moment the main reason why all the wood is beeing imported is that the dominicans dont seem to have the technology to dry the wood properly which makes it very dificult to process it.

the advantage caoba has to other trees as cedar etc is that depening on soil conditions, fertilizers etc. you can harvest within 15 years.

contact me anytime, I may also be interested in a partnership !

Flo that is fascinating, glad you decided to chime in here. I had no idea that the problem of mahogany cultivation here revolved around the issue of proper drying, and I am further surprised to discover that harvesting occurs in such a short period of time. when I was considering whether or not this would be a good venture, I just assumed that while I might not realize any profit from the thing, my daughter certainly would.

You raise many interesting questions: what sort of soil is ideal for this tree, how much land is needed (what kind of spacing is required), what sort of technology is needed for proper curing or drying, and what did the colonists do back in the 18th and 19th century when they were exporting so much of it, as I imagine that they were short on technology too?
 

Drake

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Jan 1, 2002
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Caoba info

The history of Dominican Caoba is not a sweet one. Around 200 years ago the Sierra de Bahoruco valleys in the South West DR were populated by thousands of Mahogany and other tropical hardwoods. Then came the US logging companies that founded the town of Barahona, to extract every decent size hardwood in the area. Many of the churches in Europe interior furniture originates from the DR. Incidentally most of the interior wood designs in New Orleans that was flooded out recently, also came from the DR.

If you do wish to grow Caobas on a commercial basis which I think is a great idea. There are a few things you might want to consider. Firstly their ideal habitat is in areas of transitional forests from dry to humid. Due to the past over logging, the majority of larger specimens no longer exist. So it is difficult to obtain seeds that originate from large trees. Seed selection for this kind of project would be very important.

The Caoba flower is also the national flower of the DR, placed by Trujillo the ex dictator. You can see it on every Dominican monitary note. The DR does not have a national tree.
Regards
 

macocael

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Drake, even better! I am, we all are, getting a real education here. I didnt realize that the extraction of Mahogany on a large scale was a North American venture. It closely mirrors the history of sugar production then. But am I right in saying still that the colonists were already extracting these woods on their own, though on a much smaller scale? I believe that is the standard historical line.

Funny enough I have an old mahogany rocking chair that I stripped and refurbished, handed down to me from my great grandfather who emigrated to Minnesota in the mid 19th century. No doubt that came from DR caoba too.

With reference to the ideal environment, essentially then you are suggesting that areas such as the Southwest are ideal. I suppose that leaves the rather rainy Cibao out, but what about, say, Constanza? Not too dry, not too humid, good sun in the day, but cold at night, maybe too cold. The climate is more temperate than tropical. (actually a good area for vineyards, which I believe are being planted now.)

Lastly, I thought that our national tree was in fact the Ebano Verde, or is it that a group of people are lobbying for that tree to be selected? Because that is unique to the island as well.