The sandalwood tree, also sometimes called the Indian sandalwood or S. album, is a small, fragrant species in the Santalaceae family. Additionally, it belongs to the genus Santalum, which boasts 25 separate species that are also occasionally referred to as sandalwood. This tree, native to areas of the Indian subcontinent, is evergreen and hemiparasitic, meaning that it obtains a portion of its nourishment from other plants. It is considered vulnerable to extinction due to overzealous harvesting, but despite this, the oil from the wood of this tree is still a common ingredient in fragrances and cosmetics.
Though the sandalwood tree is native to semi-arid locations of India, it is often grown in northwestern Australia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and China. The height that this plant reaches often depends upon location. For instance, in Australia, it can grow to a relatively small 13 to 29 feet (4 to 9 m); however, in its native India, it can reach much larger heights of about 65 feet (20 m). Smaller varieties typically reach a girth of around 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m), while the larger-growing trees may get to around 8 feet (about 2.4 m).
The wood of the sandalwood tree can vary, and its appearance tends to differ according to the age of the plant. Color generally varies between a dark brown or deep gray, but may also be reddish brown or nearly black. Younger plants typically bear smooth bark, while older trees tend to display rough, red cracks. The heartwood, or the non-living, inner portion of the tree trunk, is generally light green or nearly white. Due largely to its sweet scent, the woody portion of the sandalwood tree is one of its most favored attributes, but the foliage and flowers are also important to its structure and aesthetic appeal.
Sandalwood tree leaves are generally oval shaped with pointed tips, but may also be long and wide at the center. They are often shiny and green on top, but bluish-gray at the bottom. The flowers can range in color from a purplish-brown to violet, and green to red, and typically appear in clusters. These trees also bear edible fruits that appear a couple of times a year, between April and May, and October and November. The fruits are generally red, purple, or black, have a spherical shape, and supple flesh that surrounds a stone-like seed covering.