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Dalbergia sissoo Roxb. ex DC.

Sisu, Sissoo, Indian rosewood

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Timber tree, the young branches and foliage eaten by livestock. After teak, it is the most important cultivated timber tree in India, planted on roadsides, and as a shade tree for tea plantations. Sissoo makes first class cabinetry and furniture. It is used for plywood, agricultural, and musical instruments, skis, carvings, boats, floorings, etc. The leaves are used for fodder. In the U.S. (Arizona, Florida) it is said to be one of the most desirable shade trees for streets and backyards. It is grown in the sewage-irrigated greenbelt arount Khartoum, Sudan.

Folk Medicine

Reported to be stimulant, sissoo is a folk remedy for excoriations, gonorrhea, and skin ailments (Duke and Wain, 1981). Ayurvedics prescribe the leaf juice for eye ailments, considering the wood and bark abortifacient, anthelmintic, antipyretic, apertif, aphrodisiac, expectorant, and refrigerant. They use the wood and bark for anal disorders, blood diseases, burning sensations, dysentery, dyspepsia, leucoderma, and skin ailments. Yunani use the wood for blood disorders, burning sensations, eye and nose disorders, scabies, scalding urine, stomach problems, and syphilis. The alterative wood is used in India for boils, eruptions, leprosy and nausea (Kirtikar and Basu, 1975).


Per 100 g, the leaves contain on a zero-moisture basis 12.6-24.1 g protein, 2.0-4.9 g fat, 42.1-54.8 g N-free extract, 12.5-26.1 g fiber, 6.6-12.0 g ash, 840-2870 mg Ca, 120-420 mg P. On a dry basis, the silage contain 14.0% CP 3.6% EE, 30.0% CF, and 34.1% NFE. Fresh leaves from Nigeria contained (ZMB) 21.8% CP, 15.6 g CF, 8.7 g ash, 3.6 g EE, 50.3 g NFE, 1,180 mg Ca, and 250 mg P per 100 g (Gohl, 1981). Pods contain 2% tannin.


Tree 15-35 m tall, deciduous, the sometimes >2m, the clearbole up to 12 m, more often with crooked trunk and light crown. Leaves alternate, imparipinnate, the leaflets 3-5, alternate, orbicular, abruptly acuminate, puberulous but glabrescent, 3.5-6.5 cm long, not quite so broad. Flowers sessile, or short-stalked in axillary panicles shorter than the leaves. Sepals 4-5 mm long, pubescent, the lobes short. Petals yellow, 6-8 mm long. Ovary pubescent; ovules 2-4. Pods to 10 cm long, 1.5 cm broad, the stipe longer than the calyx. Seeds 1-4.


Reported from the Hindustani Center of Diversity, sissoo, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate disease, drought, frost, insects, porous soils, salt, sand, savanna, sewage, and wind. On clay soils the growth is stunted. (2n = 20)


Indigenous to India, Nepal, and Pakistan, the tree is now widely planted in the tropics. Said to be escaping from cultivation in tropical Florida. It is grown at Cayey, El Verde, and Guayabol in Puerto Rico.


Ranging from sealevel to >1500 m, it can stand temperatures from below freezing to nearly 50°C. Apparently adapted to savanna woodlands where annual rainfall is 7-20 dm with droughts of 3-4 months duration (NAS, 1979). Sometimes gregarious in alluvial forests along the rivers of the subhimalayan tract (C.S.I.R., 1948-1976). Ranging from Subtropical Thorn to Moist through Tropical Dry to Moist Forest Life Zones, sissoo is expected to tolerate annual precipitation of 6 to 40 dm, annual temperature of 21 to 28°C, and pH of 6-8.


Directly sown seed attain 15-25 cm after the first rains, 90-120 cm after the second rains in India. For seedling transplantation, only tender plants with small taproots should be used. Root suckers transplant satisfactorily in dry climates. Planting should be in spring (March in India). Raising of monocultural sissoo is discouraged. Stump planting is widely employed in irrigated plantations in India. Trenches are dug ca 1.5 m apart, earth thrown a little away from the trenches and the berms used for sowing seed or pod segments. Sowing is done on both sides of the trenches, between middle March and middle June, earlier sowing being preferred. Plants are big enough by the beginning of the next season to yield stumps. Plants are pulled out and stems and roots chopped off leaving 3-5 cm of the former and 22-35 m of the latter; ther lateral roots are also removed. Stumps thicker than 2.5 cm and thinner than 2 cm diam. at the collar are rejected. The yield of stumps is 160,000 per ha. For transport over long distances, stumps are made into bundles, wrapped in leaves or grass, sprinkled with water, and carried in gunny bags. Stumps are planted in spring, not earlier than the third week of March, perhaps April. In no case should it be put off to August. Where subsoil water is low or rainfall poor and uncertain, irrigation is essential. Stumps are planted along trenches or on berms of pits and the field is irrigated. Shallow and frequent irrigation or constant flooding is harmful and induces superficial root formation. Depending upon the weather and the condition of plants, 10-15 irrigations are adequate in the first season and 4-6 in the second. Under proper irrigation, sissoo roots tap the subsoil water within 2 years. Irrigation in later years is required only for supplementing subsoil water supplies.


Trees may be grazed or cut as needed. Young trees coppice vigorously and reproduce vigorously from suckers.

Yields and Economics

According to the Wealth of India, irrigated plantations yield fair quantities of timber and high returns of fuel. In irrigated plantations trees may attain a girth of 1.2 m in ca 25 years. A height of 7 m has been reported in 20 months. Based on studies of 40 natural riverine sites, it was concluded that 10 year stands yield about 10 m3/ha, 20 year ca 100 m3/ha (5m3/ha/yr), 30 year old stands ca 210 m3/ha (7 m3/ha/yr), 40 year old stands ca 2 80 m3/ha (7 m3/ha/yr), 50 year old stands 370 m3/ha (7.5 m3/ha/yr), and 60 year old stands 460 m3/ha (ca 7.5 m3ha/yr) (C.S.I.R., 1948-1976). Pakistan has more than 100,000 ha of sissoo plantation.


The calorific value of the sapwood is 4,908 calories or 8,835 Btu, the heartwood 5,191 calories or 9,326 Btu (probably per cu. ft., but not specified in WOI). The wood is an excellent fuel, eminently suitable for making charcoal. Heartwood yields 5.35% of an oil which, on cooling, approaches the texture of vaseline. It is suitable as a lubricant for heavy machinery.

Biotic Factors

Roots are said to be so astringent as not to be eaten by ants or rodents, at least rats. Browne (1968) lists: Fungi. Auricularia auricula-judae, Colletoglocum sissoo, Diplodia dalbergiae, Fomes durissimus, Fomes robiniae, Fusarium oxysporum, Ganoderma applanatum, Ganoderma lucidum, Hypoxylon hypomiltum, Hypoxylon investiens, Hypoxylon rubiginosum, Irpex flavus, Marasmius equierinis, Maravalia achroa, Meliola bicornis, Mycosphaerella dalbergiae, Nectria haematococca, Phellinus gilvus, Phyllachora dalbergiae, Phyllachora spissa, Phyllactinia guttata, Phyllosticta sissoo, Polysporus anebus, Poria ambigua, Rosellinia aquila, Schizophyllum commune, Thanatephorus cucumeris, Trametes corrugata, Uredo sissoo. Angiospermae. Cuscuta reflexa, Dendrophthoe falcata, Loranthus pulverulentus, Tapinanthus dodoneifolius, Tapinanthus sp., Tolypanthus involucratus. Coleoptera. Adoretus caliginosus, Amblyrrhinus poricollis, Anomala dalbergiae, Apate monachus, Apate terebrans, Apoderus blandus, Apoderus sissu, Aulacophora foveicollis, Batocera rufomaculata, Bruchus pisorum, Dorysthenes hugeli, Gonocephalum depressum, Halyzia sanscrita, Illeis cincta, Mimastra cyanura, Myllocerus blandus, Myllocerus cardoni, Myllocerus discolor, Myllocerus lefroyi, Myllocerus sabulosus, Myllocerus setulifer, Myllocerus transmarinus, Myllocerus undecimpustulatus, Perissus dalbergiae, Platymycterus sjoestedti, Rhinyptia indica, Sinoxylon anale, Tanymecus hispidus. Hemiptera. Acaudaleyrodes rachipora, Aleurolobus marlatti, Aonidiella orientalis, Aspidoproctus bifurcatus, Atelocera stictica, Dialeuropora decempuncta, Drosicha dalbergiae, Drosicha mangiferae, Drosicha octocaudata, Drosicha stebbingi, Gargara mixta, Gargara varicolor, Hemaspidoproctus cinerea, Hemiberlesia lataniae, Kerria lacca, Myzus persicae, Nipaecoccus vastator, Oxyrhachis formidabilis, Oxyrhachis mangiferana, Toxoptera aurantii. Isoptera. Bifiditermes beesoni. Lepidoptera. Anomis sabulifera, Archips micaceanus, Ascotis selenaria, Bucculatrix mendax, Buzura suppressaria, Caloptilia tetratypa, Charaxes fabius, Cladobrostis melitricha, Cusiala raptaria, Cydia jaculatrix, Dasychira dalbergiae, Dasychira mendosa, Dichomeris eridantis, Eresia hylas, Euproctis scintillans, Euproctis sulphurescens, Euproctis virguncula, Hamodes propitia, Heliothis zea, Hypena iconicalis, Hypoglaucitis benenotata, Hyposidra talaca, Leucoptera stenograpta, Pandesma anysa, Philodoria laeta, Plecoptera ferrilineata, Plecoptera reflexa, Sataspes scotti, Thosea cana, Trichoplusia orichalcea. Orthoptera. Brachytrupes portentosus, Chrotogonus spp., Gymnogryllus erythrocephalus, Gymnogryllus humeralis, Kraussaria angulifera, Schistocerca gregaria. Mammalia. Bos taurus, Ovis aries, Presbytis entellus. Nematoda. Meloidogyne javanica. The tree is sometimes killed by mistletoe. Fusarium wilt is often fatal in India, especially in monoculture, or in polyculture with other susceptible species (C.S.I.R., 1948-1976).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
last update July 10, 1996