Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is a small tropical tree, and is the most commonly known source of sandalwood. It is native to southern India and Southeast Asia. Certain cultures place great significance on its fragrant and medicinal qualities. It is also considered sacred in some religions and is used in different religious traditions. Indian sandalwood still commands high prices for its essential oil. The plant is widely cultivated and long lived, although harvest is only viable after many years. Sandalwood is an evergreen tree, growing up to 4-9 m tall. The trees have a long life, and may live up to one hundred years of age. The tree is variable in habit, usually upright to sprawling, and may intertwine with other species. The plant parasitises the roots of other tree species, but without major detriment to its hosts. The reddish or brown bark can be almost black and is smooth in young trees, becoming cracked with a red reveal. The heartwood is pale green to white as the common name indicates. The oval leaves are thin, oppositely arranged. Smooth surface is shiny and bright green, with a glaucous pale underside. Fruit is produced after three years, viable seeds after five. These seeds are distributed by birds.
Indian Sandalwood is a partial root parasite and has to be planted with a host plant for the seedling. It can use a variety of plants as host plants. Species in the legume family can be used as host plants. The seeds have a hard seed coat that has to be treated, or scarified, in order for water to enter the seeds so that they can sprout.
1. To scarify the seeds, nick or sand the seed coat with sandpaper.
2. Soak the seed in water for several hours.
3. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
4. Put the seeds on the soil.
5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
6. Water the seeds.
7. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade.
8. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.