What Is a Rosewood Tree?


The rosewood tree (Dalbergia sissoo), also called an Indian rosewood, grows in tropical regions of the world. Highly prized for its veneer and lumber, and valued as an important specimen for the production of fine furniture, rosewood species are prevalent in locations as diverse as India, Brazil, the tropical U.S., and Madagascar.

Rosewood Tree Characteristics

  • The Indian rosewood regularly attains a height of 60 feet with a spread of at least 40 feet and boasts fragrant, white flowers. It is considered hardy to USDA hardiness zones 10a through 11, an area that includes only the extreme, tropical sections of the U.S. Rosewood trees prefer full sun and grow in a variety of soil types -- ranging from wet to dry -- but they do not tolerate salt spray or runoff.

Features and Challenges

  • Rosewood trees are commonly planted in landscaping and along thoroughfares, although the extensive root systems can be a problem. The feeder roots, known for being something of a nuisance, can push through sidewalks and parking lots. While the beauty of rosewood furniture is well documented, the lumber has a reputation for being brittle. Part of this may be due to poor pruning techniques or improper training when the tree was young.

Fun Facts

  • Livestock enjoy eating the young branches and foliage of rosewood trees. In its home sub-continent of India, rosewood is considered to be the most important cultivated timber, after teak. Aside from cabinetry and furniture, the lumber is used in the production of musical instruments, skis, carvings, boats, and flooring. Rosewood trees are also a source of folk remedies for treating a wide variety of ailments ranging from gonorrhea to blood diseases.

Logging and Ecosystems

  • Madagascar rosewood is in danger of extinction due to illegal logging and political chaos in the nation. Forty-seven of the 48 species of rosewood found on Madagascar exist nowhere else in the world, and more than 90 percent of the country's primary forest has already been lost. Malagasy rosewood species are particularly threatened because of the high value of the top-quality lumber. A lack of international protection within the rosewood market, which is based largely in China, contributes to the possible extinction of the Madagascar species.

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