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Sandalwood, Agarwood and Rosewood Tree

Sandalwood Tree

There are 16 species of the sandalwood tree family Santalaceae. They occur naturally in India, Indonesia, Australia, Papua-New Guinea and in a number of Pacific island groups.

Apart from India, Santalum album can be found in Indonesia, Sri Lanka New Caledonia, Fiji Islands, Philippine Islands and the Northern Territory of Australia. In India, sandalwood is found throughout the length and breadth of the country but particularly in South India, where the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu account for nearly 80 percent of the total Indian resource.

Sandalwood is an evergreen tree, partial root parasite, generally grows in the dry, deciduous forests of the Deccan Plateau. The tree attains a height of 12 to 15 meters and a girth of 1 to 2.4 meters with slender drooping as well as erect branching.  Sandalwood needs host trees to help it to grow. As a hemi-parasitic tree, the roots of the Sandalwood tree attach to the roots of the host by means of haustoria to draw nutrients, water and some metabolites.

The renowned Sandalwood aroma comes from the oil found in the heartwood of the tree. Through a process of distillation the oil is extracted from the heartwood and is sold as a fragrance ingredient to the global beauty industry. This highly valued oil trades for around Rupees 45 Lakh per tonne. The value of heartwood is largely determined by the quantity and quality of the oil it contains. Indian Sandalwood is considered to be the premium species of Sandalwood because it has the highest oil yield and the oil has the greatest concentration of the valuable constituent’s alpha and beta Santalols.

Agarwood Tree

There are 15 species of the Agarwood tree family Aquilaria Genus. They occur naturally in India, Mayanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Philippines Laos, Japan. It is also grown in Western Ghats of Karnataka as the climatic conditions and altitude is similar to the above mentioned areas.

Agar plant prefers high humid, sub-tropical climate with rainfall 1800-3500 mm per annum. It grows from sea level up to 500-m altitudes. It is a sun-loving plant and requires lot of sunshine.

When Agarwood trees are damaged either naturally or artificially, fungus enters the tree. As the fungal infection progresses, the tree produces a dark aromatic resin in response to the attack, which results in a very dense, dark, resin embedded heartwood. The resin embedded wood yields agar oil after distillation that has a unique fragrance and is one of perfumery’s oldest and costliest raw materials.

When Agar tree is about seven years old, the trunk of the tree is attacked by fungi which enter the tree through naturally formed holes. As the fungi go about injuring the inside of the tree trunk, the tree offers resistance to it and brings the development of the fungi to a standstill. Due to these chemical reactions inside the tree trunk, a white milky substance called ‘oleoresin’ is produced. Finally, a large quantity of dark brown Agarwood is produced on the tree trunk.

About 3 – 6 years are needed for the production of resin wood from the tree that undergoes primary infection. Once the production of aromatic trunk or Agarwood is complete, the tree slowly starts drying up signaling its readiness to be harvested.

It is a common practice to damage the Agarwood tree trunk artificially to allow fungi to infect the tree and reach the inside of the tree trunk. All the trees can be artificially inoculated to produce Agarwood.

Rosewood Tree

Indian Rosewood is a erect deciduous tree. It grows to the height of 25 meter and 2-3 meter in diameter. Indian Rosewood mainly grows on the banks of the river below 900 meter elevation.

Indian Rosewood holds many medicinal properties. Rosewood oil stimulates new cell growth, regenerate tissues, and helps minimize lines and wrinkles. It helps balance both dry and oily skin. It can prove useful against acne.

Its wood is used for the making furniture, doors, windows, ship floors, plywood, skis, musical instruments, carvings etc. Because of durability Rosewood is often used in the martial art weaponry, particularly as the shaft of spears and in the gun staves. Its oil is used in Perfumes.