Dalbergia latifolia

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Local names:
Bengali (swetasal,sitsal), English (black rosewood,blackwood,Bombay black wood,East Indian rosewood,Indian palisandre,Java palisandre,Roseta rosewood), French (palisandre de l'Inde,Palissandre Asie,Palissandre d'Asie), German (Indischer Rosenholzbaum,Ind

Dalbergia latifolia is predominantly a single-stemmed deciduous tree with a dome shaped crown of lush green foliage, which on wet sites are not shed. The trees reach a height of 20-40 m with a girth of 1.5-2m. The bark is gray, thin with irregular short cracks, exfoliating in fibrous longitudinal flakes.

Leaves are alternate, odd-pinnate with 5-7 unequal sized leaflets originating from the same rachis. Leaflets are broadly obtuse, dark green above and pale below.

Flowers are white in axillary panicles, 0.5-1 cm long.

The brown pods are oblong-lanceolate and pointed at both ends. They contain 1-4 smooth brown seeds and do not open at maturity.

The name is in honour of the Swedish brothers Nils and Carl Dalberg, who lived in the 18th century. The former was a botanist and the latter explored Surinam. The specific name is Latin and means broad-leaved.


Indian rosewood is reported to be scattered in the dry deciduous forests throughout the Indian peninsula. It grows in the sub-Himalayan tract from Oudh eastwards to Sikkim, Bihar, Orissa, and throughout central and southern India. Optimum growing conditions for the species are reported to be in the Bombay region.

Native range
India, Indonesia

Tree management

As pure stands, D. latifolia is spaced at 1.2 - 2.5 by 1 - 1.8. Wider spacing may produce crooked stems. For agroforestry systems spacing of 3 by 1 - 6 by 2 m are common. Trees are usually harvested in 30-40 years. D. latifolia is generally managed by clear felling followed by artifial regeneration. After planting or direct sowing, regular weeding is necessary until trees can withstand weed competition. Loosening soil around seedlings also improves growth. Weeding and soil loosening should be done before weeds become dense.

Seeds remain viable for a period of about 6 months and lose their viability appreciably when kept for more than one year. Seed viability can be extended to 9-12 months by drying seeds to 8 % moisture content and storing them in airtight containers, however, germination will decrease to 30-40%. 

Studies in India reveal considerable variation in seed weight (18,500 to 40,000 seeds per kilogram). Germination takes 7 to 25 days and the germination varies from 45 to 80% for fresh seeds.

Indian rosewood is reported to be scattered in the dry deciduous forests throughout the Indian peninsula. It grows in the sub-Himalayan tract from Oudh eastwards to Sikkim, Bihar, Orissa, and throughout central and southern India. Optimum growing conditions for the species are reported to be in the Bombay region.

Under natural conditions, D. latifolia reproduces by seed, root sucker or coppice. Artificial reproduction is common by seed, root cutting, and stump sprout. Direct seeding is possible under moist conditions with good weed control. Root cuttings can be planted directly in the field or raised in a nursery for future transplanting. Nursery grown seedlings are transplanted to the field after six months in Java, and 12 months in India. Although no treatment is necessary, soaking seed in cool water for 12-24 hours will hasten germination.

Apiculture: Like other member of the genus Dalbergia, its honey is dark amber and strong flavoured.

Timber: The sharply defined sapwood is yellowish or pale yellowish-white, often with a purplish tinge. Heartwood varies in color from rose to dark-brown with darker purple-black lines or deep purple with black lines. The darker streaks impart an attractive figure to the timber. The heartwood darkens with age and weighs about 850 kg/cu. m. The wood is fragrant, very hard and difficult to work because of its high density.  Rosewood has exceptional dimensional stability, and retains its shape very well after seasoning. The heartwood is rated as very durable, and is generally highly resistant to attack by termites and decay fungi. Heartwood resistance to termites is reported to be only moderate in India. The sapwood, however, is liable to powder-post beetle attack. It is used to make premium-grade furniture, paneling, veneers, and interior and exterior joinery. Secondary uses of the wood include knife handles, musical instruments, agricultural implements calico-printing blocks, mathematical instruments, and boat keels and screws. Fine furniture, decorative veneer, specialty items, joinery, bedroom suites, figured veneer, living-room suites, office furniture, tables. 

Shade or shelter: The species is planted as a shade tree in coffee plantations and on roadsides.

Medicine:  Medicines are made from the tannins in the bark, for diarrhoea, worms, indigestion, and leprosy. These tannins also produce an appetizer.

Nitrogen fixing:  D. latifolia is known to be a nitrogen fixing tree.

Soil improver: D. latifolia leaf litter decomposes slowly releasing nutrients gradually and it is used as a mulch.

Intercropping:  The tree is usually intercropped with annual crops under taungya or with fruit trees.