Norseman, WA

Leonora, WA



Natural populations

Santalum spicatum has a scattered discontinuous distribution throughout much of central and southern  Western Australia, extending east into South Australia to the vicinity of the northern Flinders Ranges [1]. It is widespread in Western Australia  occurring across the Avon Wheatbelt, Coolgardie and Murchison regions and to parts of the arid zone such as the Gibson Desert. This species is typically a small tree usually 3–5 m tall and is a root parasite on many species, commonly Acacia species such as jam (A. acuminata ) and mulga (A. aneura). It grows on a wide range of soils, including calcareous and solonised types in drier parts of its range and sandy granitic soils in the southwest of Western Australia.

Flowering and seeds

Flowering in this species occurs during January to April [1,2]. Mature fruits are present during August to December. There are about 5 viable seeds per 10 grams; seeds start to germinate in about 13 days if grown at 20°C with no pretreatment required [2].

Cultivation and uses

Santalum spicatum is a slow growing, fire-sensitive species adapted to semi-arid and arid conditions. Its root system is parasitic and dependent on the roots of a host plant to establish. The species therefore needs to be grown in close proximity to suitable host plants (e.g. Acacia spp.), particularly during establishment phase. The wood produces a valued source of sandalwood oil, which is mainly used in Buddist countries for religious cermonies [1]. Sandalwood is processed for a variety of purposes, including incense (joss sticks), for carvings (napkin rings, small boxes, fans etc.), as a fixative for perfumes and in soaps. The wood is also an excellent fuelwood and the attractive pale sapwood and dark brown heartwood and has been used for furniture and craftwood. Sandalwood harvest from wild stands is exported for use mainly by Buddhists in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand [1,3]. A new industry based on plantations has recently been inititated in the south west of Western Australia [4].

Key descriptors:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 150-500 mm
Mean annual temperature: 15-27 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 32-38 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 3-7 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): frost free or more or less frost free or up to 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-500 metres
Tolerance of extremes in climate
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant or known to be tolerant of protracted droughts
Fire: killed by damaging fire does not regenerate foliage
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, duplex texture contrast soils, loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam or sand
Soil pH reaction: acidic (less than 6.5), neutral (6.5-7.5) or alkaline (greater than 7.5)
Soil depth: skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm) or moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Drainage: well-drained
Salinity: slightly to moderately saline or non-saline
Tolerance of adverse soils
Extremes in pH: acidity or alkalinity
Extremes in texture: sand
Salinity: moderate (-8 dS m-1) or slight (2-4 dS m-1)
Soil waterlogging tolerance: nil - sensitive to waterlogged soils
Biological traits under cultivation
Habit: evergreen tree 5-10 m tall, usually produces a clear trunk
Longevity: moderate to long lived (>15 years)
Growth rate: slow
Coppicing ability: nil or negligible
Root system: moderate to deep, shallow and spreading, parasitic - requires host to establish
Wood density: mod. to high (greater than 600 kg/cubic metre)
Carbon sequestration potential: low
Potential farm use: good for fence posts
Specialty products: produces oils used in perfumery or seeds are edible (used traditionally by Aborigines)
Traditional Aboriginal uses: implements/artefacts, medicinal, mythology or seeds/fruits eaten
Wildlife value: a critical food source for at least one species
Wood products:  craftwood (for turnery etc.), high quality fuelwood, industrial charcoal, posts (including fencing), sandalwood oil (incense, soaps, carvings etc.), speciality timber for quality furniture
Potentially undesirable attributes
Fire sensitivity: killed by severe fires (seeder)
Growth habit: shallow roots may outcompete adjacent plants
Susceptibility to disease or predation: susceptible to stem girdling by parrots
Foliage: highly susceptible to browsing by animals


[1] Boland DJ, Brooker MIH, Chippendale GM, Hall N, Hyland BPM, Johnson RD, Kleinig DA, McDonald MW, Turner JD (2006) Forest Trees of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

[2] Gunn BV (2001) Australian Tree Seed Centre Operations Manual. Internal Publication, CSIRO Australian Tree Seed Centre, ACT. [Online at  Accessed March 2008]

[3] Loneragan OW (1990) Historical Review of Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) Research in Western Australia. Research Bulletin No. 4. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia.

[4] Forest Products Commission Western Australia online brouchure: [Accessed March 2008]

Internet links

eFloraSA Electronic Flora of South Australia: 

FloraBase Western Australian Herbarium:

Forest Products Commission Western Australia:; and

Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food:;