Definitions

rosewood

rosewood

[rohz-wood]
rosewood, popular name for the ornamental wood of several species of tropical trees, especially for the heartwood of certain leguminous trees of the genus Dalbergia of the family Leguminosae (pulse family). Brazilian rosewood, or jacaranda (D. nigra), is one of Brazil's finest woods, important in commerce for 300 years but now close to extinction. It is obtained from the purplish-black heartwood of old trees, is rather oily, fragrant—whence the name—and durable and is used whole or in veneers for piano casings and other kinds of cabinetwork and for tools, instruments, brush backs, and other articles. The oil obtained from the wood and leaves is used in fragrances and soaps. Honduras rosewood (D. stevensonii) is now used chiefly in percussion instruments (e.g., the marimba and the xylophone) where Brazilian rosewood was formerly employed. Among Old World species are the East Indian rosewood, or black rosewood (D. latifolia), which is a deep, rich purple streaked with golden yellow to black, and the very hard African blackwood (D. melanoxylon), which is used as a substitute for ebony. Rosewoods are sometimes used locally for domestic remedies, and several—including trees of other genera also called rosewood—have been introduced into the S United States as ornamentals and for lumber. The genus is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
This article is about rosewood timber. For other uses, see Rosewood (disambiguation).

Rosewood refers to a number of richly hued timbers, often brownish with darker veining but found in many different colors. All rosewoods are strong and heavy, taking an excellent polish, being suitable for flooring, furniture, turnery, musical instruments, billiard cues, and chess sets (the black pieces) . In general, supplies are poor through overexploitation. Some species become canopy trees (to 30 m high), and big pieces can occasionally be found in the trade.

Species and classification

Dalbergia nigra, Brazilian Rosewood is (now a CITES-listed endangered species). It is also known as Rio rosewood or Bahia rosewood. This wood has a strong sweet smell, which persists over the years, explaining the name "rosewood".

Another classic rosewood is Dalbergia latifolia known as (East) Indian rosewood or sonokeling. About a dozen species of the large genus Dalbergia are commonly called rosewoods. They can be found in tropical America, Southeast Asia, and Madagascar. The woods of some other species in the genus Dalbergia are notable, even famous, woods in their own right: African Blackwood, cocobolo, kingwood, and tulipwood. The Indian souvenir trade tries to sell objects made of Dalbergia sissoo (sometimes stained purple) as if they were rosewood. The wood of some other species is usable for toolhandles at best.

The timber trade will sell many timbers under the name 'rosewood' (with an adjective) due to outward similarity. A fair number of these timbers come from other legume genera, mainly Dalbergieae; one such species that is often mentioned is Machaerium scleroxylon.

Peruvian Rosewood is from Ocotea cernua which is in the Lauraceae and thus a rather unrelated tree to other "rosewoods" of the timber trade.

Genuine Rosewood exports from South America are few due to their short supply.

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