Dalbergia sissoo is a decidious tree with an open spreading crown that reaches a height between 15-35 metres (Duke, 1983). The trunk is often crooked (Duke, 1983) with thin, grey bark, furrowed and exfoliating in narrow strips as it matures (ICRAF, undated). It has a long taproot and an extensive lateral root system, often at the soil surface and producing suckers (PIER, 2006). The leaves are alternately arranged, compound and oddly pinnate (Gilman & Watson, 1993), with 3-5 glabrous, leathery leaflets, elliptical to ovate, tapering to a point and 2.5-3.6cm in diameter (ICRAF, undated). Flowers are sessile (PIER, 2006), arranged in axillary panicles, 2.5-3.7cm long, inconspicuous, white to dull yellow (ICRAF, undated). Flowers are fragrant (PIER, 2006), with pubescent sepals 4-5mm long, and petals 6-8mm long (Duke, 1983). Fruits are indehiscent, 5-7.5cm long and 8-13mm wide (ICRAF, undated), rounded with minute points, pale brown in colour (PIER, 2006), and persistent on the tree (Gilman & Watson, 1993). The seed is kidney-shaped, thin, flat, and light brown with 1-4 seeds in a pod (ICRAF, undated).
Dalbergia sissoo has many beneficial impacts to the environment. Its extensive root system makes it ideally suited for stabilizing and controlling erosion along distrubed areas and near rivers and streams (ICRAF, undated, Duke, 1983). Belonging to the family Fabaceae, D. sissoo has the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere through bacteria located in nodules present in the root system of the plant (ICRAF, undated). The leaf litter that accumulates and decomposes also contributes to soil fertility by adding additional nitrogen, potassium, iron, manganese, and organic carbon (Sangha & Jalota, 2005). In studies done in comparison of native D. sissoo species planted in monocultures versus exotic Eucalyptus tereticornis mononcultures, plant species diversity was much higher in D. sissoo monocultures than in the E. tereticornis(Sangha & Jalota, 2005). In its native range indian rosewood is a host to a variety of species of orchids (ICRAF, undated).
Dalbergia sissoo begins to produce flowers after nine months, with flowering closely associated with leaf flush in the spring (ICRAF, undated), April-May in North America(Painter, 2006). The mature pods are persistent on the tree for 7-8 months (ICRAF, undated), however seed remains viable for a few months once exposed to air (Sheikh, 1989). The seed germinates in the spring in 1-3 weeks (Sheikh, 1989). Trees reach maturity around 19-21 years of age (Sangha & Jalota, 2005) with a natural rotation of about 60 years (Sharma,et al, 2000).
Dalbergia sissoo has a wide range of economic and ecological uses. The wood of Indian rosewood is highly durable with excellent finishing colour and smoothness; used for veneer, furniture, cabinets, panelling, carving, small timber, plywood and musical instruments (ICRAF, undated; Lowry & Seebeck, 1997). The sawdust works in the absorption of nickel ions and has the potential of removing these heavy metals from industrial and commercial waste water sources (Habib-ur-Rehman,et al, 2006). The wood has a high caloric content and is an important fuelwood and charcoal source (Sheikh, 1989). The wood fibres are processed into a pulp that is further made into paper (ICRAF, undated). A non-drying fixed oil is processed from the heartwood and used as a lubricant in heavy machinery (ICRAF, undated). The leaves and young shoots can be used as fodder for livestock and grazing animals typically in winter seasons when other fodder is not available (Sheikh, 1989). The tree has many reputed medicinal properties and have been used culturally for a variety of ailments including: skin diseases, blood diseases, syphilis, stomach problems, dysentry, nausea, eye and nose disorders, aphrodisiac, expectorant, among others (Duke, 1983). Indian rosewood also has insecticidal and larvicidal properties, as well as resistance to some wood boring insects (ICRAF, undated).
Ecologically Indian rosewood provides numerous servives to the landscape and environment and is commonly employed in agroforestry (Lowry & Seebeck, 1997). It is used as a windbreak and shelter belt and as a shade tree in intercropping of orchards, mango, tea, and coffee plantations (ICRAF, undated; Sharma,et al, 2000). Since it has an aggressive root system and is prone to suckering it is commonly used for erosion control and soil stabilization along stream and river banks (ICRAF, undated). It is widely planted in its native countries for reforestation programs (Sharma,et al, 2000). It is also valued for its ability to increase soil fertility through nitrogen fixation and is intercropped for these reasons as well (ICRAF, undated). Highly valued for its fragrant flowers and shade it is planted in urban areas along roadsides and in gardens as an ornamental (Gilman & Watson, 1993).
Dalbergia sissoo is found in tropical to subtropical climates in natural and planted forests, mainly along forest margins near streams and rivers, hammocks, canopy gaps, agricultural areas, disturbed sites and roadsides (ICRAF, undated; Langeland & Stocker, 2001; Duke, 1983; Sharma,et al, 2000). It survives in areas with a mean annual rainfall of 500-4500mm and often associated with seasonal monsoon and periods of drought up to six months (ICRAF, undated). Temperature hardiness is from slightly below freezing to 50 degrees Celsius (Sheikh, 1989) and can grow from altitudes ranging at sea-level to 1500 metres (ICRAF, undated). It grows best in porous well-drained soils like sands, sandy loams, gravels, and alluvial soils, but does poorly in heavy clay and waterlogged soils (Sharma,et al, 2000). The pH ranges from 5-7.7(ICRAF, undated) and the species has a low salt tolerance (Black & Meerow, 1993). Seedlings are intolerant of shade (Sheikh, 1989) but mature trees can tolerate moderate shade (Black & Meerow, 1993).
Dalbergia sissoo reproduces through seed production and vegetatively through suckers arising from the root system (PIER, 2006). The flowers are bisexual and capable of both self- and cross-pollination (ICRAF, undated). The pollination mechanism is theorized to be through insects (ICRAF, undated). Regeneration is rare under the shade of the parent canopy and seed dispersal is through wind or water (ICRAF, undated).
Principal source: International Center for Research in Agroforestry, undated, Dalbergia sissoo, World Agroforestry Centre, Agroforestry Tree Database [online];
Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER), 2006,Dalbergia sissoo, [online database];
Sheikh, M.I., Dec. 1989, NFT Highlights Sissoo- The Versatile Rosewood, NFTA 89-07, Forest, Farm, and Community Tree Network (FACT Net), Winrock International, Morrilton, AR, 72110-9370, USA.
Compiler: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Publication date: 2007-08-03
Recommended citation: Global Invasive Species Database (2021) Species profile: Dalbergia sissoo. Downloaded from http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=1186 on 12-04-2021.