Scientific Name: Santalum album
Tamil Name: Sandana maram
Description: This species has historically been cultivated, processed and traded since ancient times. Certain cultures place great significance on its fragrant and medicinal qualities. The height of the evergreen tree is between 4 and 9 metres. They may live to one hundred years of age .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, nitrogen and potassium, 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. Fruit is produced after three years, viable seeds after five. These seeds are distributed by birds.
Habitat and distribution: It is a hemiparasitic tree, native to semi-arid areas of the Indian subcontinent. It is now planted in India, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Northern Australia.
Note: The high value of the species has caused its past exploitation, to the point where the wild population is vulnerable to extinction. Indian sandalwood still commands high prices for its essential oil, but due to lack of sizable trees it is no longer used for fine woodworking as before.
Photo source: Dr. J. Subramanean