Bois de Rose (Dalbergia maritima)
Zitan (representative image; Dalbergia maritima pictured)

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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.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

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.

Bois de Rose (Dalbergia maritima)
Bois de Rose (sanded)

Bois de Rose (sealed)
Bois de Rose (sealed)
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Jim

I have some Zitan boards I purchased from a furniture builder near Suzhou around 2003. They are about 3″ x 12″ x 30″. I simply brought them home in my luggage…..it was easy during that time. Is it now illegal to sell the wood and items I have made or may make in the future?

James Thomson

I’m guessing that the value of the raw lumber is ‘what the market will bear’, but have not seen any of the wood for sale, other than pen blank size or that which is in the format of furniture or carved objects shipping from China primarily.

arda

can this tree be used on guitars? maybe an alternative to rosewood or ebony?

Benjamin Hankinson

Shame it’s so rare, as it seems like a beautiful wood. I actually tried browsing for some. I would have to pay hundreds for an auction piece and butcher it. Maybe some day.

Last edited 1 year ago by Benjamin Hankinson
magalie cote

Hello
i have what i believe to be a Zitan cabinet that is about 6 feet tall
how can i find out for sure it is in fact Zitan?

Ezzat YOMTOB

hI ERIC i THINK i HAVE A VERY INTRICATE CARVED CHAIRS, 19TH CENTURY THAT IS MMDE OUT OF ZITAN WOOD. iF IT HELP i CAN SEND YOU A PIC

Lim

Can you sent a closeup photo of wood grain to me, I think I can identify it.

Last edited 11 months ago by Lim
john watt

It being a sandal wood will be obvious the shavings smell really nice like sandal wood incense , ive made a few pens from this wood and saved the shavings they smell so good

Evgen

False. Zitan has no fragrance of sandalwood (santal spp).

12ab

zitan smells good. ask any chinese person.

James Thomson

Absolutely smells great, especially when it is heated slightly as when sanding or power carving it. My lumber came directly from a furniture building shop on the outskirts of Suzhou my Chinese friends took me to back in 2003-4, so there is no doubt of it’s authenticity. A bit of a spicy scent mixed in.

Laurynas

Is it simmilar wood? the one I’ve got is etremely hard, nothing like oak, It was vibrating when trying to plane it, was jumping from the planer, toughest wood I’ve seen , extremely heavy also, endgrain is very porous looking, splintering a lot and splinters are very sharp and hard.

Louis

That’s difficult to see because of the glare but it kind of looks like bubinga. Look that up on this site and see if it seems like a match.

Leofox Chiang

Very hard