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Santalum album

Santalum album

'Sandalwood' by Köhler
Santalum album
Conservation status

Vulnerable (IUCN) [1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Santalales
Family: Santalaceae
Genus: Santalum
Species: S. album
Binomial name
Santalum album

Santalum album, a terrestrial plant species of the Santalaceae family, is commonly known as a source of sandalwood. It is a hemi-parasitic tree, occurring in semi-arid areas from India to the South Pacific and the northern coast of Australia. It is known as the source of a timber and essential oil, which command high prices for fine woodworking and as a fragrance respectively. For this reason, along with Santalum spicatum, it is has a high commmercial value. To preserve this vulnerable resource from over-exploitation, legislation protects the species, and cultivation is researched and developed.[2] [3] [4]


Natural history

S. album is included in the family Santalaceae, genus Santalum and is also known as White or East Indian Sandalwood. It was originally endemic to eastern Indonesia, northern Australia and tropical areas of the Indian peninsula. It is now indigenous to deciduous, dry forests of China, India, Hawaii, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines and Northwestern Australia, although the extent of human dispersal to these regions is not known. Temperatures above freezing to 38 deg. C, and annual rainfall between 500 and 3 000 mm are also typical.


S. album occurs in arid coastal deciduous forests at sealevel and dunes or cliff tops up to 700m. Sandy or stony red soils are usual, but a wide range of soil types are inhabited. The plant parasitises the roots of other tree species without major detriment to its hosts. Up to 300 species(including its own) host the tree's development - supplying macronutrients phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, and shade - especially during early phases. Height of the evergreen tree is 4 and 9 metres. It can propagate 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. The heartwood is pale green to white as the common name indicates. The leaves are thin, opposite and ovate to lanceolate in shape. Glabrous surface is shiny and bright green, with a glaucous pale reverse. Fruit is produced after three years, viable seeds after five. These are distributed primarily by birds. The species is threatened by over-exploitation and degradation to habitat through fire, agriculture and land-clearing.


  S. album has been the primary source of sandalwood and the derived oil. These often hold an important place within the social culture of the distribution range. The high value of the plant has led to attempts at cultivation, this has increased the distribution range of the plant. 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:

Utilisation of all the Santalum genus in Australia has been extensive. S. album was traded out through the north of the continent.
A primary export in Hawaiian societies.
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.[5] 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.[1]

See also

  • Sandal spike phytoplasma - disease of S. album


  1. ^ a b Asian Regional Workshop (1998). Santalum album. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 2007-02-08.
  2. ^ University of Queensland site's detail
  3. ^
  4. ^ WA Gov site's detail
  5. ^ Karnataka Forest Department Rules
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Santalum_album". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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