Diospyros ebenum

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Local names:
English (Mauritius ebony,ebony persimmon,Ceylon ebony)

D. ebenum is a slow-growing medium-sized tree up to 30 m tall and up to 90 cm in diameter. Bole straight, with buttresses up to 2 m high; crown dense. Bark surface scaly, fissured, black to grey-black.

Leaves ovate-oblong to oblong-lanceolate, 5-13 cm x 2-6 cm, base cuneate to rounded, apex slightly acuminate to rounded, glabrous, tertiary venation reticulate, inconspicuous above, prominent below.

Flowers mostly male and bisexual; male flowers in 3-16-flowered cymes, 4-merous, stamens 16; female and bisexual flowers solitary, 3-4 merous, calyx lobes valvate, glabrous, corolla divided to about halfway, staminodes 8, ovary with a single 4-5-lobed style and 8 uni-ovulate locules. 

Fruit depressed globose to subglobose, up to 1.5 cm across, glabrous.

D. ebenum has been known for its black wood since ancient times.


It occurs naturally in comparatively dry mixed evergreen forests usually as an understorey tree with other Diospyros species, Vitex altissima and Albizia odoratissima.

Native range
India, Sri Lanka

Tree management

Ebony requires overhead light once seedlings establish.

There are about 9000 seeds/kg.

It occurs naturally in comparatively dry mixed evergreen forests usually as an understorey tree with other Diospyros species, Vitex altissima and Albizia odoratissima.

Propagation is from seed or stumps.

Poison: Fruits are used as fish poison.

Timber: D. ebenum is said to produce the best commercial black ebony. The sapwood is light yellowish grey, often streaked with black; heartwood very black, heavy with a specific gravity of 1.12. The wood is straight grained, fine and even-textured with a high glossy finish. The wood is difficult to season and work by hand. It is resistant to insect attack and fungi and very durable. It is mainly exported to China for furniture and to Europe as fancy wood. It finds use in sports goods, musical and mathematical instruments, ornamental carvings and turnery.

Shade or shelter: The tree has been planted in India as a shade tree for cardamom.

Medicine: The gummy astringent fruits are used as a medicine and eaten in times of famine.