There are thousands of common names for various species from the genus Shorea, but the names "Philippine mahogany" and "lauan" are often substituted for meranti. The four groups of meranti are separated on the basis of heartwood color and weight. About 70 species of Shorea belong to the light and dark red meranti groups, 22 species to the white meranti group, and 33 species to the yellow meranti group.
Meranti species as a whole have a coarser texture than that of mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and do not have dark colored deposits in pores.
The grain is usually interlocked thereby allowing minimal uneven wear between growth rings. All merantis have axial resin ducts aligned in long, continuous, tangential lines as seen on the end surface of the wood.
These ducts sometimes contain white deposits that are visible to the naked eye but the wood is not resinous like some keruing (Dipterocarpus) species that resemble meranti. All the meranti groups are machined easily except white meranti, which dulls cutters as a result of high silica content in the wood. The light red and white merantis dry easily without degrade, but dark red and yellow merantis dry more slowly with a tendency to warp.
The strength and shrinkage properties of the meranti groups compare favorably with that of northern red oak (Quercus rubra). The light red, white, and yellow merantis are not durable in exposed conditions or in ground contact whereas dark red meranti is moderately durable. Generally, heartwood is extremely resistant to moderately resistant with respect to preservative treatments.
Species of meranti constitute a large percentage of the total hardwood plywood imported into the United States. Other uses include joinery, furniture and cabinetwork, moulding and millwork, flooring, and general construction. Some dark red meranti is used for decking.