Adenanthera pavonina

Common name: Red sandalwood

Other common names: Circassian bean, Circassian seed, Coral wood, Jubie beads, False wiliwili, Peacock tree, Red bead tree, Saga tree, Sanderswood

Names in non-English languages: Philippines French India Spanish German

Description

Red Sandalwood is a timber and fuelwood tree with a wide native distribution, its natural range extending from India, through Southeast Asia to Australia and the Western Pacific. From there, it was introduced into countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America, where it has become well-established and naturalised. 

It reaches up to 25 m (82 ft) tall in its natural forests, though is more commonly 10 to 15 m (32 to 50 ft) and under favourable growing conditions develops a single trunk supports a wide-spreading, rounded crown. In the drier parts of its range, however, it is often forked or multi-trunked, especially on nutrient poor soils. The bark is dark brown and lightly fissured.

The leaves are 30 to  60 cm (1 to 2 ft) long and twice-feathered, being made up of many, dull green, oblong leaflets with blunt ends, alternately arranged along the ends of the branches. In seasonally dry areas they fall off the tree to conserve water.

The flowers are small and insignificant, creamy-white to pale yellow, tightly packed in narrow, tail-like clusters of variable lengths that arise at the ends of the branches. They come into bloom from late summer to early winter and are followed by slim seedpods up to 25 cm (10 in) long.

The seedpods become dark brown when mature then split lengthwise, the two halves curling and coiling to expel the seed, which are small, round, hard and glossy red.

Use

It produces a dark reddish brown, wavy patterned wood that is medium-weight to heavy, in the density range of 600 to 800 kgs per cubic meter (37 to 50 lbs per cubic ft) and with high natural resistance to rot and decay, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. 

The sawn timber is used in its native range mostly for making furniture and cabinets. The roundwood is more widely used and is cut for in-ground poles and posts, including fence posts as well as for firewood and charcoal making, for which it is well suited.

It was once commonly planted to shade coffee and cacao crops, on account of its fast growth and moderate shading, allowing some sunlight to pass through to the crops below. However, this use is now discouraged due to its weediness.

The shiny red seed are softened in boiling water and threaded to make fashion jewellery, including necklaces, bracelets and other wearable fashion, sometimes intricately designed.

Best climate

Grows naturally in moderately humid to humid tropical lowland climates, generally in areas with annual lows of 18 to 25 °C, annual highs of 27 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 1200 to 6000 mm and a dry season of 5 months or less. However, it reaches its best development as a timber tree in areas with annual rainfall of 1800 mm or more.

How to grow

New plants are usually grown from seed, which are sometimes slow to germinate and are best pre-treated by immersing them in boiling water for around a minute, or by leaving them to soak in tap water for a day or two. Seedlings and trees perform best on free-draining loam and sand soils of a moderately acid to neutral nature, generally with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5 and on sites with full to partial sun exposure.

Problem features

It is listed as a high weed risk species in more than one reference publication, due to its high rate of seed production and the speed with which dense stands form, displacing native flora and preventing their regeneration. Humans are largely responsible for its spread outside of its native range, mainly by importing and cultivating it as an ornamental and with seed-eating birds the main dispersal agent.  It is assessed as a high weed risk species for Hawaii by the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment project (HPWRA).

The seed are reportedly poisonous if ingested.

Where it will grow


References

Books

  • Allen, O. N. & Allen, E. K. 1981, The Leguminosae : a source book of characteristics, uses, and nodulation, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin

  • Barwick, M., et al. 2004, Tropical & subtropical trees : a worldwide encyclopaedic guide, Thames and Hudson, London

  • Bonner, F. T & Karrfalt, R. P. 2008, The woody plant seed manual, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington D.C.

  • C.A.B. International 2013, The CABI encyclopedia of forest trees, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxfordshire

  • Dastur, J. F. 1964, Useful plants of India and Pakistan : a popular handbook of trees and plants of industrial, economic, and commercial utility, 2nd ed., D. B. Taraporevala Sons, Bombay

  • Fawcett, W. 1891, Economic plants, An index to economic products of the vegetable kingdom in Jamaica, Jamaica Government Printing Establishment, Kingston

  • Francis, J. K. 1998, Tree species for planting in forest, rural, and urban areas of Puerto Rico, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Piedras, Puerto Rico

  • Francis, J. K. and Liogier, H. A. 1991, Naturalized exotic tree species in Puerto Rico, General technical report SO-82, USDA Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans

  • Gohl, B. 1981, Tropical feeds : feed information summaries and nutritive values (Revised edition), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome

  • Holttum, R. E. & Enoch, I. C. 2010, Gardening in the tropics : the definitive guide for gardeners, Marshall Cavendish Editions, Singapore

  • Howes, F. N. 1949, Vegetable gums and resins, Chronica Botanica Company, Waltham, Massachusetts

  • Jamieson, G. S. 1943, Vegetable fats and oils : their chemistry, production, and utilization for edible, medicinal and technical purposes, 2d ed, Reinhold, New York

  • Krishen, P. 2006, Trees of Delhi : a field guide, Dorling Kindersley Publishers, Delhi

  • Little, E. L. et al. 1964 and 1974, Common trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (2 volumes), Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Washington D.C.

  • Macmillan, H. F. 1943, Tropical planting and gardening : with special reference to Ceylon, 5th ed, Macmillan Publishing, London

  • Nussinovitch, A. 2010, Plant gum exudates of the world : sources, distribution, properties, and applications, CRC Press / Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, Florida

  • Parrotta, J. A. 2001, Healing plants of peninsular India, CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxfordshire

  • Peate, N. & Macdonald, G. & Talbot, A. 2006, Grow what where : over 3,000 Australian native plants for every situation, special use and problem area, 3rd ed., Bloomings Books, Richmond, Victoria, Australia

  • Perkins, K. D. & Payne, W. 1981, Guide to the poisonous and irritant plants of Florida, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Gainesville, Florida

  • Polunin, Ivan 1987, Plants and flowers of Singapore, Times Editions, Singapore

  • Randall, R. P. 2002, A global compendium of weeds, R.G. and F.J. Richardson Press, Melbourne

  • Randall, R. P. 2007, The introduced flora of Australia and its weed status, Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management, Glen Osmond, South Australia

  • Selvam, V. 2007, Trees and shrubs of the Maldives, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) RAP publication (Maldives), Thammada Press Company Ltd., Bangkok

  • Streets, R. J & Troup, R. S. 1962, Exotic forest trees in the British Commonwealth, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England

  • Troup, R.S. & Joshi, H. B. 1975 to 1981, Silviculture of Indian Trees (3 volumes), Government of India Publications, New Delhi

  • Vozzo, J. A 2002, Tropical tree seed manual, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service, Washington D.C.

  • Watt, George Sir 1908, The commercial products of India : being an abridgement of the Dictionary of the economic products of India, John Murray, London

Articles, Journals, Reports and Working Papers

  • Morton, J. F. 1976, Pestiferous spread of many ornamental and fruit species in south Florida. In Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society (Vol. 89, pp. 348-353).

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