The name African mahogany covers all species of Khaya, although their timbers vary somewhat in character, particularly in weight. The bulk of the timber shipped is produced by Khaya ivorensis and Khaya anthotheca, each with moderately lightweight, pale to medium-red wood, and it is timber of this type which is accepted commercially as African mahogany.
East African Khaya nyasica is generally similar.
A small proportion of Khaya grandifoliola is moderately light in weight but much of its timber and that of Khaya senegalensis is darker and appreciably heavier than that normally accepted as African mahogany. It has been suggested that such heavy wood should be marketed separately, and the name heavy African mahogany is recommended.
The heartwood is distinctly pink when freshly sawn, but when seasoned varies in color from light pinkish-brown to a deep reddish shade; the yellowish-brown sapwood is not always clearly demarcated. The heartwood of K. grandifoliola tends to be darker. The grain is usually interlocked and the texture is of a coarser nature than that of American mahogany. The quality varies with the locality of growth; some localities are said to produce coarse-textured logs with spongy hearts while others are noted for the fine texture and character of their timber. A common feature is the defect known as 'thunder shake' (cross fractures), which are particularly abundant in trees with a soft or 'punky' heart. K. nyasica from East Africa inclines to a reddish or golden-brown shade.