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Sandalwood Tree - Types, Benefits, Rarity & Cultivation

Sandalwood Tree - Types, Benefits, Rarity & Cultivation

The sandalwood tree has the Latin name Santalum album L. It produces wood, perfumes sandalwood essential oil. The wood is used as a spice, incense material, aromatherapy, perfume mixture, and dagger shaft. This type of wood is durable and can retain its aroma for centuries.

Getting to know Sandalwood

Sandalwood trees belong to the Santalaceae family. Sandalwood consists of 29 species worldwide that grow naturally and are distributed in Asia, Australia, India, and Pacific island countries.

Of the 29 sandalwood species, only 8 species are utilized for their aroma and oil content. The other 2 species have been declared extinct, namely Santalum homoi and Santalum frevenitianum.

The fragrance of sandalwood is caused by the content of santalol compounds in its stems and roots. This compound is widely used for raw materials in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Meanwhile, sandalwood that has a low santalol content will generally be used as carving materials and other crafts with high selling value.

The wood of the sandalwood tree is a wood that is in demand by people abroad, because of its distinctive aroma. Since the XV century, sandalwood trees have attracted Europeans.


The tree called Indian Sandalwood in English has the Latin name Santalum album L. which comes from the Santalaceae family. In addition, other names often used to refer to sandalwood are Sirium myrtifolium L., Santalum ovatumm R. Br., and Santalum myrtifolium (L) Roxb.

The taxonomy of sandalwood trees can be seen as follows:

Sandalwood Characteristics

Morphologically, sandalwood has the characteristics of a tree that sheds leaves and can grow to a height of 20 m with a trunk diameter of 40 cm, slender or widened crown, rounded and slightly grooved trunk, and non-rooted roots.

Sandalwood trees have single, green leaves with small sizes of 4-8 cm x 2- 4 cm and tend to be sparse. The shape of sandalwood leaves is rounded like a peg, with wavy edges, and yellowish petioles with a length of 1-1.5 cm.

Sandalwood flowers in umbrella ferns or panicles with tube-like and bell-shaped decorations. Sandalwood flowers are about 1 cm long and start with a yellow color then turn dark red and slightly brownish.

The fruit of the sandalwood tree is drupe-shaped, cylindrical, small, and blackish-red in color. Sandalwood fruit has a layer of exocarp, mesocarp fleshy, and hard endocarp with a line from the tip to the base. The fruit is black when ripe and measures 1 x 0.75 cm in diameter.

Flowering and Fruiting Season

In Indonesia, sandalwood trees that are 5 years old will produce flowers and fruits twice a year. Usually, the flowering period starts from May to June and the fruiting period is from September to October. Then flowering again in December to January and ripe fruit in March to April.

Sandalwood Habitat

Sandalwood trees thrive in well-drained soils and drylands. Suitable soils for this tree are soils with clay or medium texture from limestone, sandstone, siltstone, alkaline volcanic, and shallow soils. Although sandalwood trees grow in shallow, rocky, infertile soils, they are still capable of producing good-quality wood.

Types of Sandalwood

Sandalwood is divided into 2 types, namely White Sandalwood and Red Sandalwood. White sandalwood is commonly found in the Malay region such as Indonesia, while red sandalwood generally grows in the Funan and India regions.

The quality of red and white sandalwood also has a difference, where red sandalwood has a less good quality fragrance than white sandalwood.


Sandalwood trees are suitable for growing in grassland forests and shrubs in tropical to subtropical areas that have a long dry season.

The suitable climate for sandalwood growth is type D and E based on the Schmidt-Ferguson climate type classification at temperatures of 10 to 35 degrees Celsius and air humidity of around 65% with rainfall of 625 to 1625 mm per year.

For optimal sandalwood growth, the soil where it grows must have a good drainage system whose structure consists of limestone or volcanic parent rock at an altitude of 50 to 1200 masl. Sandalwood trees do not grow well in waterlogged soils.

Quality sandalwood is generally obtained from trees growing at an altitude of 600 to 900 masl. In addition, sandalwood also needs enough sunlight, such as in open savanna forests.

In nature, savanna trees are found growing in shallow, rocky soil in a fertile manner. The tree is adaptable to sodium-containing soils. However, it is poorly adapted to soils that are high in salt and lime.

Sandalwood Tree Distribution

The origin of the sandalwood tree is believed to have originated in India. Because in this country natural stands were found in the Mysore area. However, this statement was refuted by a botanist from Indonesia.

According to him, the sandalwood tree comes from the Outer Banda Arc of Islands, which is located in Southeast Indonesia or around the islands of Timor and Sumba.

Sandalwood trees consist of 29 species, all of which are widely distributed in Asia. Sandalwood species Santalum album L. is the type that grows naturally in the Asian region.

Other species are S. macgregorii F. Muell. and S. papuanum Summerh. which are distributed and grown in Papua New Guinea. And S. spicatum (R. Br.) A. DC. which is widely distributed in western and southern Australia.

Besides being the signature tree of East Nusa Tenggara, sandalwood also grows in natural forests and plantations in Bondowoso, Jember, Gunung Kidul, Bali, Maluku, and Sulawesi.


Sandalwood is an essential oil-producing tree that has a distinctive aroma obtained from its roots, wood, and branches. Each part of the sandalwood tree produces different levels of mint.

Sandalwood tree roots produce the highest percentage of essential oil, which is around 10%. While the wood of the trunk has an oil content of about 4% to 8% and the branches give a presentation of 2% to 4%.

The fragrance of sandalwood oil is produced by the content of santanol compounds found in sandalwood roots, stems, and twigs. This compound is also utilized in the cosmetic industry.

In addition, sandalwood is also used for furniture, such as tables, chairs, and cupboards, and as raw material for handicraft products.

Sandalwood has good quality and can be used for construction materials. This is because the wood has a level of durability and strength of class II. The nature of sandalwood itself is quite hard, so the process is quite difficult.

Benefits of Sandalwood

Its distinctive smell makes sandalwood popular and has high economic value. Sandalwood is often used for spices, incense, perfume blends, aromatherapy, and dagger frames.

In addition, sandalwood is also used for building materials, furniture or furniture, crafts, artwork, prayer beads, and so on.

In the field of health, sandalwood is also used, especially for herbal therapy, and is used as a medicine processed from sandalwood bark, wood, and extract oil. The fragrant aroma of sandalwood can provide a calm sensation and is believed to eliminate negative vibes.

There is a myth in Sri Lanka that the preservation of royal daughters uses sandalwood, as the fragrance of sandalwood is believed to last for centuries.

Women and Sandalwood

For women, the sandalwood herb is also used to treat the female area and as a menstrual cleanser. The trick is to grind the sandalwood bark finely and then brew it with hot water until it changes color. The water is then filtered and drunk until the menstrual blood is completely clean.

In addition, sandalwood can also be used as a powder and mask to treat oily facial skin and wrinkles.

Sandalwood Tree Cultivation

Sandalwood plants at the beginning of their growth live as parasites, so they need a host tree for germination. It can be said, sandalwood is quite difficult to cultivate because the sandalwood root system is not able to support its own life.

Therefore, sandalwood cultivation is usually combined with other plants as hosts, namely Acacia, Albasia, Inga, Dalbergia, Pongamia, and Alang-Alang.

To cultivate sandalwood, we can obtain sandalwood seeds through the seedling method, namely:

  1. Soak sandalwood seeds for 24 hours, then dry them for 1 day under the sun.

  2. Use planting media in the form of a mixture of red soil, sand, and manure with a composition of 2: 1: 1

  3. Plant sandalwood seeds at a depth of 2 to 3 cm and cover lightly with soil

  4. Water daily for 4 to 8 weeks until the sandalwood seeds begin to germinate.

Next, we can transplant the seedlings to the planting ground in the following way:

  1. Make a 30 x 30 x 30 cm planting hole

  2. Transplant the seedlings when they reach 1 month of age in the morning

  3. Plant sandalwood seedlings with hosts 1.5 to 2 meters apart.

  4. Do weeding and pest eradication regularly

  5. Apply organic fertilizer to ensure nutrient sufficiency

In addition, we must pay attention to the following three factors so that sandalwood growth can be maximized:

1. Planting Location

As mentioned earlier, sandalwood likes a habitat with enough sunlight and open land. Therefore, the planting location of sandalwood trees should be done on large and open land with a temperature of 12 to 30 degrees Celsius.

A good land elevation is at 600 to 100 masl with an annual rainfall of around 850 to 1200 mm.

2. Soil and Drainage Conditions

According to its natural habitat, sandalwood will not grow well if the soil where it grows is waterlogged and wet. Choose land with good drainage for the rainwater disposal system. In addition, plant on loamy soil types with a pH of 6 to 7.5.

3. Host Plant

At the beginning of its growth, sandalwood needs a host tree. Plant host trees that produce fixed nitrogen, such as acacia or casuarina. The distance between sandalwood and host trees should be around 1.5 to 2 meters.

Sandalwood is Endangered

Based on data from the IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Natural Resources (1997), sandalwood Santalum album L. is categorized as Vulnerable due to massive logging that has occurred since 1980.

In addition, the scarcity of sandalwood populations has also decreased due to forest fires and the absence of efforts to replant.

Data from the NTT Provincial Government in 2010 also showed that only 300 thousand sandalwood trees remained in Timor, Alor and Sumba. This number decreased dramatically compared to data in 2000 when the population still reached 1 million trees.

Data from the NTT Provincial Government in 2010 recorded only 300 thousand mature sandalwood trees in Timor, Alor, and Sumba. In fact, in 2000 there were still around 1 million sandalwood trees in the region. In this case, social pressure is suspected to be one of the main causes of the sandalwood population decline.

In addition to the data above, in 2012 the North Central Timor District Forestry Service recorded a sandalwood tree population of around 45 thousand. Of course, this number is a threat to the sustainability of this fragrant tree.

Sandalwood conservation needs to be carried out with certain strategies, such as genetic basis, genetic diversity, mating system, fragmentation level, and clonality of each population. The development of conservation strategies must also be integrated with regional and national conservation programs so that the scarcity of sandalwood trees can be overcome.

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