China’s demand for rosewood furniture is decimating Africa’s Mukula trees 

The making of traditional Chinese furniture is an art form whose craftsmanship dates back as far as 1,000 BC. The furniture is made from hongmu, or “red wood,” a dense, fragrant, and most importantly, hardy wood that allows Chinese artisans to use joinery and doweling instead of glue and nails. Sometimes the word is carved into elaborate patterns or landscapes. Other times its fashioned into sleek seating arrangements that recall imperial China.

On the other side of this market are the forests in Africa and southeast Asia where these hardwoods, more commonly known as rosewood, originate. Of the 33 woods classified as rosewood in China, 16 are endangered or approaching that point. Rosewood substitutes are also starting to come under pressure. Of those, the most threatened may be the Mukula tree, a slow-growing hardwood unique to southern and central Africa that is easily passed off as traditional rosewood.

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