Pterocarpus santalinus

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"Red Sandalwood" redirects here. See also: Algum and Adenanthera pavonina.
Pterocarpus santalinus
Pterocarpus santalinus in Talakona forest, AP W IMG 8145.jpg
in Talakona forest, in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh, India.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Dalbergieae
Genus: Pterocarpus
Species: P. santalinus
Binomial name
Pterocarpus santalinus
  • Lingoum santalinum (L.f.) Kuntze

Pterocarpus santalinus, with the common names Red Sanders, Red Sandalwood, and Saunderswood, is a species of Pterocarpus endemic to the southern Eastern Ghats mountain range of South India.[2][3] This tree is valued for the rich red color of its wood. The wood is not aromatic. The tree is not to be confused with the aromatic Santalum Sandalwood trees that grow natively in South India.


Seized Red sandalwood logs at Forest office, Tirupati
Pterocarpus santalinus leaf

Pterocarpus santalinus is a light-demanding small tree, growing to 8 metres (26 ft) tall with a trunk 50–150 cm diameter. It is fast-growing when young, reaching 5 metres (16 ft) tall in three years, even on degraded soils. It is not frost tolerant, being killed by temperatures of −1 °C.

The leaves are alternate, 3–9 cm long, trifoliate with three leaflets.

The flowers are produced in short racemes. The fruit is a pod 6–9 cm long containing one or two seeds.[4][5]



The wood has historically been valued in China, particularly during the Qing Dynasty periods, and is referred to in Chinese as zitan (紫檀) and spelt tzu-t'an by earlier western authors such Gustav Ecke, who introduced classical Chinese hardwood furniture to the west.[6]

Due to its slow growth and rarity, furniture made from zitan is difficult to find and can be expensive.[7] It has been one of the most prized woods for millennia.

In India sandalwood is one main and lucrative market for smugglers, as a high price is paid for this wood in China. Since, the exporting of sandalwood in India, the underground market is growing and there are a number of arrests every year of those trying to smuggle this wood to China.

The other form of zitan is from the species Dalbergia luovelii, Dalbergia maritima, and Dalbergia normandi, all similar species named in trade as bois de rose or violet rosewood which when cut are bright crimson purple changing to dark purple again. It has a fragrant scent when worked.[6]


Red Sandalwood has been used for making the bridge of the Japanese musical instrument Shamisen.[8]

Grading of red sandalwood[edit]

Chess pieces in red sandalwood

Red sandalwood grown on the shale subsoils, at altitudes around 750 metres (2,460 ft), and in semi-arid climatic conditions gives a distinctive wavy grain margin. Lumber pieces with the wavy grain margin are graded as "A" grade. Red sandalwood with wavy grain margins sells at higher prices than the standard wood.

Conservation status[edit]

Pterocarpus santalinus is listed as an Endangered species by the IUCN, because of overexploitation for its timber in South India.[9] It is also listed in the appendix II of the CITES, which means that a certificate is required in order to export it, that should only be granted if the trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species.[10]


External links[edit]