Common Name(s): Zitan, Red Sandalwood, Red Sanders
Scientific Name: Pterocarpus santalinus
Distribution: Southeastern India
Tree Size: 30-50 ft (9-15 m) tall, 2-3 ft (.6-1 m) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 63 lbs/ft3 (1,010 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .88, 1.01
Janka Hardness: 2,940 lbf (13,080 N)
Modulus of Rupture: No data available
Elastic Modulus: No data available
Crushing Strength: No data available
Shrinkage: No data available
Color/Appearance: Heartwood ranges from a dark orange to a deeper reddish purple, often with darker streaks throughout. Colors tend to darken significantly over time to deep reddish purple to nearly black. Overall appearance and color can be very similar to Bois de Rose. Pale white sapwood is narrow, and is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Sometimes seen with a wavy, interlocked grain figure.
Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight or slightly interlocked. With a medium uniform texture and high natural luster.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; solitary and radial multiples; large to very large pores in no specific arrangement, very few; orangish brown deposits occasionally present; parenchyma winged, confluent, and banded; narrow rays, spacing fairly close to close.
Rot Resistance: No data available.
Workability: No data available.
Odor: Have a distinct, pleasing odor when being worked.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Zitan has been reported as an irritant; most common reactions simply include eye irritation, as well as vomiting. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Imported and used almost exclusively within China, where it commands absolutely exorbitant prices: demand for Zitan puts it into an entirely separate price tier than even the most precious hardwoods sold throughout the Western world. Despite tight trading restrictions, the wood continues to be illegally smuggled into China. Plantation sources are currently in development, but buyers should be aware of counterfeit Zitan—typically found in the form of other Pterocarpus species or a Dalbergia species (such as Bois de Rose).
Sustainability: This wood species is in CITES Appendix II, and is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as endangered due to a population reduction of over 50% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.
Common Uses: Fine furniture and carvings.
Comments: Although the tree is reported to have a very slow growth rate, plantation trees have been shown to have vigorous growth. R.H. Beddome reports in his 1869 Flora Sylvatica for South India that a 5-year old tree had already grown to a size of over 18 feet high (5.6 m) with a 9 inch (23 cm) diameter trunk. Another instance—published in World of Wood 68, no. 2 (2015): 5—reported of plantation trees that had grown to over 80 feet tall (25 m) with massive 23 inch (57 cm) trunk diameters in just 45 years.
The mystique surrounding Zitan has—very unfortunately—reached an atrocious level. Prices for the wood are so high within China, illegal smugglers are willing to take up arms and kill or be killed in attempts to obtain this wood.
- Amboyna (Pterocarpus indicus)
- Andaman Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides)
- Burma Padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus)
- Muninga (Pterocarpus angolensis)
- Narra (Pterocarpus indicus)
- Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii)
Scans/Pictures: There are currently no pictures of this exact wood species, but a similar species is being substituted (Dalbergia maritima). If you’d like to contribute (or even lend) a wood sample of this specific species to be scanned, please use the contact form.