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Pterocarpus santalinus

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Subject: Henry Russell Sanders, Pterocarpus, Trees of Pakistan, List of plants in the Bible, Tiqin
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Pterocarpus santalinus

"Red Sandalwood" redirects here. See also: Algum and Adenanthera pavonina.
Pterocarpus santalinus
in Talakona forest, in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh, India.
Conservation status
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] In other languages, it is known as Telugu: రక్తచందనము (raktachandanamu),Telugu: ఎర్ర చందనము (Erra chandanamu), malayalam:രക്ത ചന്ദനം (raktha chandanam), Tamil: சிவப்புச்சந்தனம் (siwappuchchandanam) and Kannada:ರಕ್ತ ಚಂದನ.


The 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]



In Hinduism, this wood has been traditionally used as a sacred wood. The priests and higher class casts such as brahamin extensively use this wood on many of their rituals.


Due to its slow growth and rarity, furniture made from zitan is difficult to find and can be expensive.[6] It has been one of the most prized woods for millennia. King Solomon was given tribute logs of Almug, in Sanskrit valgum, by the Queen of Sheba. [6]

The wood has historically been valued in China, particularly during the Ming Dynasty and 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 furniture to the west.[7]

Between the 17th and 19th centuries in China the rarity of this wood led to the reservation of zitan furniture for the Qing dynasty imperial household. Chandan, the Indian word for Red Sandalwood which is Tzu-t’an, are linked by etymology. The sanskrit chandan is in turn etymologically derived from dravidian caandu. The word tan in Chinese is a perfect homonym of “tan”, meaning cinnabar, vermillion and the cognition is suggested by the interchange of chan for oriflamme, the vermilion ensign of the ancients. Chinese traders would have been familiar with Chandan. Tzu-t’an then is the ancient Chinese interpretation for the Indian word chandan for red sandalwood.

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.[7]

Grading of red sandalwood

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

Pterocarpus santalinus is listed as an Endangered species by the IUCN, because of overexploitation for its timber in South India.[8]


  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  2. ^ (Almug, Red Sandalwood, Saunderswood)Pterocarpus santalinusIUCN Report:
  3. ^ International Legume Database & Information Service: Pterocarpus santalinus
  4. ^ FAO Ecocrop: Pterocarpus santalinus
  5. ^ Auroville: Wasteland reclamation through rehabilitation of eroded soil (pdf file)
  6. ^ a b Accessed 2007-04-06
  7. ^ a b Chinese newsletter; Volume 1, Number 2; Accessed 2007-04-05
  8. ^ Pterocarpus santalinusRed List of Threatened Species:, IUCN 

External links

  • Pterocarpus
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