|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Meliaceae (from the genus Melia, the Greek name of the somewhat similar manna-ash). Mahogany Family. Fig. 31. Trees or shrubs: leaves usually alternate, pinnate or rarely simple: flowers bisexual, rarely unisexual, panicled; sepals 4-5, usually partly connate, imbricated; petals 4-5, rarely 3-8, separate, or connate or adnate to the stamens; stamens 8-10, rarely 5, or numerous, hypogynous, filaments usually connate into a tube which is entire or lacerate, rarely free; disk present; ovary superior, 2-5-celled, rarely 1- or many- celled, each cell 2-, rarely several-, ovuled; style and stigma 1: fruit a drupe, berry, or capsule.
There are 42 genera and about 600 species, all confined to the tropics. They enter the United States only in southern Florida. Some fossil species are known. The family is related to the Rutaceae, but lacks the resin and oil-glands. It is closely related to all of the disk-bearing families, but is distinguished by the peculiar stamen-tube with teeth and fringe.
There is the greatest diversity in the arrangement of the anthers on the staminal tube and the dentation or fringing of the latter. Very commonly there are 2 stipule-like teeth just below the anthers. The seeds are sometimes winged (in mahogany). The leaves are rarely transparent-dotted (Flindersia).
Melia Azedarach, an Asiatic tree, is bitter, and has been used in medicine as a purgative and vermifuge. Other species of Meliaceae are purgative and emetic, or are used for heartburn, and the like. Some have the odor of garlic. The bark of the Asiatic Walsura piscidia is used to stupefy fish. The pulp of the fruit of Aglaia edulis is said to be delicious. The bitter bark of mahogany has been used in place of quinine. The most celebrated member of the family is Swietenia Mahogani of the West Indies and Peru, which furnishes the mahogany timber of commerce. The wood of the West Indian Cedrela odorata is fragrant, and is the so-called cigar-box cedar, from which these boxes are made. The sawdust of the South African sneezewood (Ptaeroxylon obliquum) causes sneezing, hence the popular name.
Five or more genera are in cultivation in America, all confined to southern California and southern Florida, except Melia, which is common throughout the southern states, and Cedrela sinensis, hardy in Mass. Among these are Cedrela (West Indian Cedar); Melia (Pride of India, China-berry Tree, Texas Umbrella Tree); Ptaeroxylon (Sneezewood); Swietenia (Mahogany).CH
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963