Pterocarpus santalinus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Fabales Fabaceae

Scientific Name: Pterocarpus santalinus L.f.
Common Name(s):
English Red Sandalwood, Almug, Red Sanders, Saunderswood
Lingoum santalinum (L.f) Kuntze

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2018
Date Assessed: 2018-02-01
Assessor(s): Barstow, M.
Reviewer(s): Rehel, S. & Rivers, M.C.
Contributor(s): Deepu, S.

Pterocarpus indicus, an Indian endemic tree species, has a restricted geographic range in the Eastern Ghats. The species is estimated to have an extent of occurrence (EOO) of around 25,000 km2. Historically the population was also subject to decline due to timber demand; however, information on the scale of this is not currently available and cannot be estimated. The population is still declining due to the illegal harvest of mature individuals to provide the much sought after timber, Red Sandalwood. There is also decline in the quality and extent of the species native habitat due to human pressures on the landscape, for example, livestock grazing. Currently the number of locations of the species is not known but it is not predicted to be larger than 10 based on the consistency of threat across the species range. The species is globally assessed as Near Threatened as it almost qualifies for Vulnerable B1ab(iii,v). The species is currently protected under national and international trade regulations. The conservation focus is on reducing the illegal harvest of the species and establishing cultivated areas of the tree to reduce risk to wild stock. 

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Pterocarpus santalinus has a restrictive distribution in the South Eastern portion of Indian Peninsula to which it is endemic. It is native to the states of Andrhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka (Hedge et al. 2012, Arunkumar and Joshi 2014). More specifically it is found in the Palakonda and Seshachalam hill ranges of Cuddapha-Chittoor Districts of the State of Andhra Pradesh (Rajampet, Rayachoti, Ballepalle, Kodur ranges, Gangana Palle forest of Vempalle village and Lankamal Reserve Forest) (Hedge et al. 2012, Arunkumar and Joshi 2014).  It occurs less frequently in the regions of Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu (Hedge et al. 2012) and also in the North Arcot Hills.

The species has an estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) of around 25,000 km2.  Within the Cuddapah landscape, Arunkumar and Joshi (2014) estimated the species to have a distribution of 5,160 km2. However, another estimate for Andra Pradesh considered species distribution to not exceed 398,000 ha equivalent to 3,980 km(Hedge et al. 2012). The species total area of occupancy (AOO) is not anticipated to be much larger than this measure as it is most common in this landscape and in Andra Pradesh. Currently the number of locations of the species is not fully known but it is not predicted to be larger than 10 based on the consistency of threat across the species range.

The species is cultivated within Sri Lanka, China, around its wild range states and also in Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal within India.
Countries occurrence:
India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:5160
Number of Locations:10
Lower elevation limit (metres):150
Upper elevation limit (metres):900
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Pterocarpus santalinus population is under pressure and in decline due to illegal felling and human pressure on 'red sanders' forests. In a selection of 0.1 ha sample plots P. santalinus occurred at a density of 16.75 per 0.1 ha. More specifically trees above 30 cm dbh occurred at a density of 9.19/ 0.1 ha. plots but trees exceeding 70 cm dbh were only found at a density of 13.2 trees per ha (Rao and Raju 2002). In the same sample plots seedlings occurred at an average density of 0.74 per 0.1 ha. Overall, P. santalinus has a skewed size class distribution which consists of significantly fewer trees over 50 cm dbh compared to trees of a smaller size class. 
The species has been subject to historical population decline due to over extraction of trees for timber. These historical declines are anticipated to be large and have been occurring over many generations of the species, however the information is not available to estimate the scale of this ancestral loss. Currently, the species also suffers from low fruit set and hence poor natural regeneration. Therefore, in the future, the population of the species may decline further and it is also predicted to suffer from genetic erosion, and in-breeding depression due to a relatively small remaining population (Arunakumara et al. 2011).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Pterocarpus santalinus is a medium sized tree species between 10 and 15 m in height (Arunkumar and Joshi 2014). It grows in dry deciduous forests where it can be mixed with other native species or form pure stands (Babar et al. 2012). The species has a narrow specificity, with the majority of stands occurring on quartzite soil. It grows on dry, hilly zones often on rocky grand (Rao and Raju 2002). The species is light demanding and cannot tolerate shade or water logging (Arunakumara et al. 2011). It is slow growing taking 50 to 60 years to reach 70 cm in girth. The trees are pollinated by bees and fruit ripens from February to March. Fruit is wind dispersed and seed germinated quickly after the rainy season. The species occurs from 150 to 900 m asl (Hedge et al. 2012).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Pterocarpus santalinus is a very valuable, attractive, hardwood species. Its timber is used to make furniture, musical instruments, carving and to make agricultural tools. The wood is in high demand in China and Japan but was previously sought in many parts of Europe (Arunkumar and Joshi 2014). All trade of this timber is now currently from illegal sources as the harvest of the species is prohibited. The trade of wood from even cultivated sources is limited. Legal trade is limited to the occasional sale of confiscated timber by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. The species has negligible utilization within the country mainly in Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia and sometimes for making small toys and musical instruments. The species has virtually no domestic demand for construction or future use. Almost all the seizures indicate the movement of logs towards the exit points or the seizures themselves are at the exit points during attempted smuggling (MoEFCC 2018). Between 1991 and 2003 a 717.7 MT of P. santalinus chips were traded. The majority of trade of the species is now in chips or dye. There are many regional, national and international laws (including CITES) in place to monitor and control the trade of this timber (Rao and Raju 2002). Current extraction of timber is opportunistic and mostly of trees exceeding 50 cm in diameter, due to the illicit nature of the harvest of this species there is no 'commensurate replacement of natural stands' (Arunakumara et al. 2011). Arunkumar and Joshi (2014) stated that 'the regular seizures of huge quantities of Red Sanders wood in international markets are so common now that the survival and existence of P. santalinus is a cause for concern.'

The species may also be harvested for pharmaceutical and medicinal uses. The heartwood can be powdered to produce a treatment for diabetes. The species is used for immunity medicine in China. The wood is astringent which can help alleviate swelling, pain and reduce bleeding (Rao and Raju 2002). The species also produces a red dye known as 'santalin' this has medicinal properties but is also used to dye paper, pulp, textiles and for tanning (Arunakumara et al. 2011, Prakash et al. 2006).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is threatened by illegal timber extraction. The species occurrence near deprived villages, where the extraction and trade of red sanders wood is a main source of livelihood, is a risk to the species (Rao and Raju 2002). The extraction of the largest trees for timber has left the remaining population of Pterocarpus santalinus skewed so there is reduced regeneration and increased the occurrence of inbreeding. The illegal trade adversely affects the population structure of the species with the removal of superior phenotypes. It is further aggravated by the special demand for wavy grained individuals which cannot be determined by any observable morphological parameters, causing indiscriminate felling. The natural fruit set is very low, about 6%, comparative to the quantum of flowers, with xenogamous fruits alone carrying to maturity and dropping of autogamous and geitonogamies. This puts the species at future risk of further decline.

Pterocarpus santalinus is also threatened by habitat loss due to anthropogenic pressures on deciduous forests in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Very little information is available on the diseases and pests except some seed-borne diseases caused by Aspergillus niger, A. flavus, Cladosporium cladosporides and Fusarium spp.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is present in six ex situ collections (BGCI 2018). The species is considered endangered in India and is protected under law. Original laws prohibiting the harvest of the species were established in the 19th century and they have been developed over the last century. The species has been internationally protected under CITES Appendix II since 1995. Within Andhra Pradesh, it is estimated that 168,000 ha of Red Sanders forest is found within protected areas 

There is no harvest management for P. santalinus from wild populations as any extraction of the species is illegal so current management plans focus on preventing the illegal harvest and trade of the species. There is encouragement to raise plantations of P. santalinus outside of its natural range and also in private plantations. It is recommended that the process of exporting and harvesting propagated and cultivated trees is streamlined to encourage the establishment and use of these trees. There is some in situ conservation of remaining red sanders forests. There is a need for protection of the forest from fires, cattle grazing as well as the need planting of P. santalinus in areas of scarcity, within its native range and where land reclamation is needed (Rao and Raju 2002). 
The harvest of this species is monitored and illegally harvested trees are seized. Legal export requires contracts and permits from multiple government agencies. Extract of living trees from the natural forests is prohibited and silvicultural removals if any are as per the prescriptions of the approved Working Plans.  In the protected areas, removals of any kind are prohibited. The species should be used in social forestry, these could be a source for sustainable harvesting.  The species survives well without irrigation and fertilizer. Also, detailed studies on the reproductive biology of this species is needed to produce and maintain the genetic diversity. The continued conservation of this species is necessary for its continued survival in the wild.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.5. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
12. Other options -> 12.1. Other threat
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.5. Inbreeding
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.6. Skewed sex ratios
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.7. Reduced reproductive success

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.4. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.3. Livestock farming & ranching -> 2.3.4. Scale Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.3. Logging & wood harvesting -> 5.3.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 7 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology

Bibliography [top]

Arunakumara, K.K.I.U., Walpola, B.C., Subasinghe, S. and Yoon, MH. 2011. Pterocarpus santalinus Linn. f. (Rath handun): A review of its botany, uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. J. Korean Soc. Appl. Biol. Chem. 54(4): 495-500.

Arunkumar, A.N. and Joshi, G. 2014. Pterocarpus santalinus (Red Sanders) an Endemic, Endangered Tree of India: Current Status, Improvement and the Future. Journal of Tropical Forestry and Environment 4(2): 1-10.

Babar, S., Amarnath, G., Reddy, C.S., Jentsch, A. and Sudhakar, S. 2002. Species distribution models: ecological explanation and prediction of an endemic and endangered plant species (Pterocarpus santalinus L.f.). Forest Remote Sensing, Biodiversity and Climate. 102(8).

Balakrishna, P. and Ravishankar, T. 1993. Letter with list of corrections to TPU printout for India.

BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservation International). 2018. PlantSearch online database. Richmond, UK Available at: (Accessed: 2018).

Hedge, M., Singh, B.G. and Krishnakumar, N. 2012. Non-Detriment Findings Study for Pterocarpus santalinus L. f. (Red Sanders) in India. Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding.

IUCN. 2018. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2018-1. Available at: (Accessed: 28 June 2018).

MoEFCC. 2018. Red Sanders. Available at: new.pdf. (Accessed: March 2018).

Molur, S. and Walker, S. 1996. Report on Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP II) (unpublished).

Molur, S., Ved, D.K., Tandon, V., Namboodiri, N. and Walker, S. (Eds.). 1995. Conservation assessment and management plan (CAMP) for selected species of medicinal plants of southern India.

Prakash, E., Khan, P.S.S.V., Rao, T.J.V and Meru, E.S. 2006. Micropropagation of red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) using nodal explants. J For Res 11: 329-335.

Rao, S.P. and Raju, A.J.S. 2002. Pollination ecology of the Red Sanders Pterocarpus santalinus (Fabaceae), an endemic and endangered tree species. Current Science 83(9): 1144- 1148.

Citation: Barstow, M. 2018. Pterocarpus santalinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T32104A67803072. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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