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Scientific: Dalbergia sissoo
Common: Indian rosewood, Shisham, sissoo tree
Family: Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
Origin: Native to India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Invasive alert: Indian rosewood has been planted in tropical and sub-tropical areas worldwide, and has now broadly naturalized. It has escaped from cultivated sites in central Florida where it has been designated a category 2 invasive species.

Pronounciation: Dal-BUR-gee-a SIS-soo

Hardiness zones:
Sunset 13, 15-24
USDA 9 (freeze damage when young), 10-11

Landscape Use: Large shade tree for all land use types, park tree, shade tree, street tree (only if street median planters are at least 10-feet wide), particularly useful for mesic and oasis landscape themes.

Form & Character: Upright and spreading with age, an alpine tropical look like a tropical aspen (confusing I know, but it's true). Indian rosewood is a tree that can bring the feel of green into an otherwise dry, landscape setting.

Growth Habit: Evergreen to semi-evergreen, woody, perennial broadleaf tree. Indian rosewood is upright and vigorous to about 60-feet tall with a nearly equal spread, though the eventual mature height and spread of this tree in Phoenix is uncertain. It generally becomes more spreading in habit with age, though much of its eventual mature form is dependent on whether it has been propagated by cutting or seed.

A special warning about the dark side: Indian rosewood trees can notoriously grow pesky and somtimes destructive root suckers (epicormic shoots from roots) in poor and shallow desert soils at some distance from the tree's trunk (this has also been noted by Dr. Ed Gilman to be a serious problem in his home state of Florida, and also in Hawaii).

Foliage/Texture: Foliage is alternate, pinnately compound, three to five light to medium green ovate to orbicular leaflets to 2 inches with acute tip per leaflet. Leaflets tremble in wind like the quaking aspen (or as we locals tend to say, "the Quakies") of the Rocky Mountains. The trunk surface is smooth and light colored when young, but becomes roughened and fissured with age. This is a medium textured tree.

Flowers & Fruits: Inconspicuous greenish-yellow flower in small axillary clusters in the spring followed by persistent single achene fruit clusters in summer and fall.

Seasonal Color: None

Temperature: Young trees will suffer freeze damage below 28oF. In Phoenix, older mature trees will become partly deciduous during the coldest winter months of December through February and landscape use of Indian rosewood can be expected to be problematic in the coldest (lowest elevation - Mesa, Queen Creek, Gilbert) portions of the Salt River basin where freeze injury will happen; the extent of which will vary according to exposure and tree age/size. Indian rosewood tolerates the Phoenix summer heat very well if properly irrigated.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Indian rosewood is somewhat prone to iron chlorosis in alkaline and/or caliche soils. As needed correctively treat with iron chelate and magnesium sulfate fertilizers, much like citrus.

Watering: Prefers regular, deep irrigations during summer to promote luxuriant growth and a dense canopy of shade.

Pruning: Prune to shape and crown raise to elevate canopy base level. In Phoenix, Indian rosewood is less prone to sunscald than Arizona or Raywood ash.

Propagation: Seed or cuttings (softwood or hardwood will work).

Disease and Pests: Gunner bees might eat a circular portion out of new leaves in late spring and early summer. White flies feed on succulent growth in late summer and early fall. Fusarium wilt is rare.

Additional comments: Indian rosewood is presently a popular, semi-evergreen shade tree in Phoenix. It is a luxurious oasis alternative to ash and western cottonwood. Small, cutting-grown trees from nursery containers usually need ample staking and training in the landscape for years after transplanting before full landscape establishment. In contrast, seedling grown trees are more stout and upright. Indian rosewood will produce some litter throughout the year (flowers in the spring, leaves and fruit, especially during fall).

For you woodworker types: After teak, Indian rosewood is the most important cultivated timber tree in India, planted on roadsides, and as a shade tree for tea plantations. Indian rosewood produces a first-class wood for cabinetry and furniture. It is used for plywood, musical instruments, skis, carvings, boats, floorings, etc., and as fodder for livestock.