What is Indian sandalwood?

Indian sandalwood (lat. Santalum album) is a medium sized, evergreen and tropical hardwood tree from the Santalaceae family (Sandals Family) which grows up to 20 feet tall. Sandalwood grows mainly in India, Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, southern Africa as well as on some islands in the Pacific Ocean. The largest supply of wildly grown Indian sandalwood comes from the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in southern India.

The Santalaceae family includes 16 different sandalwood tree species worldwide (including the Australian sandalwood tree - lat. Santalum spictatum) and most of these contain essential oils. However, the oil content and quality varies greatly from species to species, and the Indian sandalwood tree is by far the most valuable and sought-after of them.

The Indian sandalwood tree is semi-parasitic, which means that for its growth it relies on the availability of adequate host trees and shrubs in its immediate vicinity. The sandalwood tree connects to the roots of these host plants to obtain nutrients and water. Ideally, Indian sandalwood trees are able to exploit different host plants during different stages of their growth.

The tree also requires optimal growing conditions for its growth, namely:

  • Fertile yet porous earth
  • Adequate fresh water irrigation and rainfall
  • Subtropical climate
  • Sheltered geographic position (to guard against cyclones and floods)

An Indian sandalwood tree consists of:

  • Heartwood, roots: Part of the stem containing the precious oil
  • Sapwood: Periphery of the stem, which contains no oil
  • Other parts of the tree: Branches, boughs, seeds etc.

On the plantations of our asset partner Quintis, an Indian sandalwood tree weighs about 100 kg at harvest, of which the heartwood accounts for about 24 kilograms (depending on the age at harvest).

The heartwood in turn contains about 3.7% Indian sandalwood oil.