A heavy dusky perfume wafts through the bushland announcing that the sandalwood Santalum spicatum is blooming.
This much sought after native was one of the first exports from the colony of Western Australia.
Sandalwood is a small shrubby tree to 4 metres with thick fleshy pale green leaves.
Like Mistletoe, Sandalwood relies on host plants for nutrients. The Sandalwood attach themselves to the host plants by special root adaptations called Haustoria. The main host species are Acacias, Casurinas and members of the Proteaceae family.
The fruit of Sandalwood are globular about the size of a ping pong ball. They start green, then turn red and brown as they age. This cover over the fruit becomes dry and is easily removed to reveal a hard shell covered nut. The nut is edible but without flavour.
Sandalwood oil prized by the perfume industry is found in the heartwood of the tree. To get the oil the tree is destroyed. Wild harvesting of Sandalwood is strictly controlled to preserve stocks.
Sandalwood and Quandongs have a special relationship with the Spotted Jezebel Butterfly which will only lay its eggs on these parasitic plants.
Sandalwood are easy to grow in the garden as long as you have a few host species growing. Seed is available at Katanning Landcare.
Try growing a Perfume Princess in your garden!
Author: Bev Lockley
Bev is an Australian native plants specialist, with a particular focus on the unique flora of the arid region of the Great Southern and Wheatbelt. Bev is a community activist, amazing teacher, and the initiator and driving force behind the Friends of Piesse Lake and the Katanning Propagators Group.