Santalum album is a small tropical tree of the Santalaceae family, commonly known as the source of sandalwood.
This species has been utilised, cultivated and traded for many years, some cultures placing great significance on its fragrant and medicinal qualities. It still commands high prices an essential oil, but has lost the once extensive use as a timber for fine woodworking. For these reasons it is has extensively exploited, the population in the wild is vulnerable to extinction. The plant is widely cultivated and long lived, although harvest is viable after 40 years.
The height of the evergreen tree is between 4 and 9 metres.
They may live to one hundred years of age.
The tree is variable in habit, usually upright to sprawling, and may intertwine with other species.
The plant parasitises
the roots of other tree species, with a haustorium
adaptation on its own roots, but without major detriment to its hosts. An individual will form a non-obligate
relationship with a number of other plants.
Up to 300 species (including its own) can host the tree's development - supplying macronutrients phosphorus
, and shade - especially during early phases of development.
It may propagate itself through wood suckering
during its early development, establishing small stands.
The reddish or brown bark
can be almost black and is smooth in young trees, becoming cracked with a red reveal.
is pale green to white as the common name indicates.
are thin, opposite and ovate to lanceolate
in shape. Glabrous surface is shiny and bright green, with a glaucous pale reverse.
is produced after three years, viable seeds after five.
These seeds are distributed by birds.
for other 'sandalwoods' and the taxonomy of the genus are derived from this species historical and widespread use. Many languages contain a word that describes this specific plant.
is included in the family Santalaceae
, which is placed in the order Santalales
, and is commonly known as White or East Indian Sandalwood
. It is the type species
of the genus Santalum
, nominated by Linnaeus
in the first botanical description; this was published in Species Plantarum
in 1753 with the note "Habitat in India". The species name, Santalum ovatum
, used by Robert Brown
in Prodromus Florae Novae Hollandiae
(1810) was described as a synonym of this species by Alex George
in 1984. The epithet album
refers to the 'white' of the heartwood.
The species was the first to be known as Sandalwood, although it is often appended with a description of a region. Other species in the genus Santalum, such as the AustralianS. spicatum, are distinguished by a regional name.
It is a hemi-parasitic
tree, occurring in semi-arid areas from India
to the South Pacific
and the northern coast of Australia
to eastern Indonesia
, northern Australia
and tropical areas of the Indian
It is now indigenous
to deciduous, dry forests of China
, Sri Lanka
, the Philippines
and Northwestern Australia
, although the extent of human dispersal
to these regions is not known.
occurs in coastal dry forests
at sealevel and dunes or cliff tops up to 700 m. It normally grows in sandy or stony red soils, but a wide range of soil types are inhabited. This habitat has a temperature range from 0 to 38°C and annual rainfall between 500 and 3000 mm.
The species is threatened by over-exploitation and degradation to habitat
through altered land use; fire, agriculture and land-clearing are the factors of most concern.
To preserve this vulnerable
resource from over-exploitation, legislation protects the species, and cultivation is researched and developed.
The indian government has placed a ban on the export of the timber.
S. album has been the primary source of sandalwood and the derived oil. These often hold an important place within the societies of its naturalised distribution range.
The high value of the plant has led to attempts at cultivation, this has increased the distribution range of the plant.
The ISO Standard for the accepted characteristics of this essential oil is ISO 3518:2002.
The long maturation period and difficulty in cultivation have been restrictive to extensive planting within the range.
Harvest of the tree involves several curing and processing stages, also adding to the commercial value. These wood and oil have high demand and are an important trade item in the regions of:Australia:Utilisation of all the Santalum genus in Australia has been extensive. S. spicata was traded out through the north of the continent. Commercial Indian Sandalwood plantations are now in full operations in Kununurra, Western Australia. Hawaii:A primary export in Hawaiian societies.India:The use of S. album in India is noted in their literature for over two thousand years. It has use as wood and oil in religious practices. It also features as a construction material in temples and elsewhere. The Indian government has banned the export of the species to reduce the threat by over-harvesting. In the southern Indian state of Karnataka, all trees of greater than a specified girth are the property of the state. Cutting of trees, even on private property, is regulated by the Forest Department. The infamous forest bandit Veerappan was involved in the illegal felling of sandalwood trees from forests.South Pacific:Societies throughout the south pacific has made use of 'sandalwood'. Sri Lanka:An extensive history of use.
The harvesting of sandalwood is preferred to be of trees that are advanced in age. Saleable wood can, however, be of trees as young as seven years. The entire plant is removed rather than cut to the base, as in coppiced species. The extensive removal of S. album over the past century led to increased vulnerability to extinction.
9. Indian Sandalwood Plantations in Australia.