What is an Indian Rosewood?

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  • Written By: Erica Stratton
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Indian rosewood is a kind of tree which provides a rare hardwood. It is highly prized for its grain and sweet smell. The Indian rosewood is also known as Sonokeling. It is of the genus Dalbergia, a group of trees and shrubs with a range from Malaysia to Asia. Many of its relations, such as blackwood, are also famous hardwoods. Others, such as the Shisham tree, are of relatively poor quality.

Indian rosewood gets its name from its sweet smell. Like cedar and sandalwood, the wood is rich with oils. It does not lose its scent after the tree's wood has been carved and will remain scented for years.

The wood of this tree is also visually pleasing. It has a rich grain featuring many knots, swirls, and even bird's eyes that stand out even more after carving and polishing. The tree's wood is usually shades of dark brown, but purple and even green variations have been known to occur.

Indian rosewood is used in creating many different objects because of its strength, color, and ability to take a polish. It is used in the making of instruments, such as guitars. It has been carved into items as varied as pens, chess pieces, furniture and flooring.


The Indian rosewood is considered an endangered species. This is due to it being over-harvested. Additionally, in 2004, several Madagascar rosewood plantations experienced a high death rate among their trees. The reason for so many trees dying is not yet known, though causes such as overcrowding or the age of the trees has been considered.

Due to its rarity, many charlatans will attempt to pass off wood from trees related to rosewood as the real thing. These trees are usually of a quality only used in furniture and the making of tool handles. The items are sometimes stained with purple dye in order to make them look more realistic.

Even though it is rich and rare, Indian rosewood has been known to cause allergic reactions in people who are exposed to it. Alternately, the bark of this tree can be used in medicines. It is prescribed in the treatment of diarrhea, indigestion, worms, and leprosy. An extraction of the bark can also be used in food.


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