|Blue mahoes are common urban trees in Jamaica. This one is growing in Emancipation Park, Kingston.|
Hibiscus elatus Sw.
Talipariti elatum is native to the islands of Cuba, Jamaica the US. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In wetter areas it will grow in a wide range of elevations, up to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) and is often used in reforestation. It is the national tree of Jamaica.
The Talipariti elatum tree is quite attractive with its straight trunk, broad green leaves and hibiscus-like flowers. It grows quite rapidly, often attaining 20 metres (66 ft) or more in height. The attractive flower changes color as it matures, going from bright yellow to orange red and finally to crimson.
The wood has a musical quality and has been traditionally used in the making of cuatros, a type of lute. Fine boxes, furniture, inlay works, floors, details, turned pieces, exquisite jewelleries, sculptures, and ancient board games, have been, and demand to be transformed from the mahoe. Architects, furniture-makers, designers, artists and wood lovers will find a charm in working with this wood. It has fine sanding and turning qualities, and a natural gloss in the wood when finely finished. The wood is not usually blue, but brown. In some lumber there can be grey, green, black, blue and purple colors all combined in just one small piece. Growing conditions may be responsible for the color variations but this has not been proven.
Mahoe or Taliparti elatum, (also known as "blue mahoe" for the characteristic coloration of its wood after milling), is a tree native to Jamaica and Cuba. A volunteer species, characteristic of open disturbed habitats and also found, due to its shade tolerance, as an understory tree in secondary forests, mahoe grows to 25 m tall and upwards of 100 cm DBH (KIMBER, 1970). It was recognized as a potentially important species for plantation and forest enrichment after a survey by Jamaican foresters (LONG, 1963 cited in KIMBER, 1970). It is an excellent wood with a rich variety of colors and attractive grain, but surprisingly, very little mahoe is currently being produced anywhere else. Mahoe can vary greatly in color from tree to tree, the blue tone does not tend to endure for many years. The wood transforms over time to shades of browns, purples, greys, and bluey-greens. The first plantings in Puerto Rico were in the 1940s and it has been also been introduced to other Caribbean islands and Hawaii for evaluation. It has become naturalized in Mexico, Peru, Brazil, southern Florida and the West Indies (CHUDNOFF, 1982 cited in WEAVER, FRANCIS, n.d.)
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- "Talipariti elatum". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- Hibiscus elatus Sw. "mahoe". U.S. Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Plants Database. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- "Eye on the Forest". Tropic Ventures Rainforest Enrichment and Sustainable Forestry Project. Retrieved 2009-01-27.