What is rosewood?
‘Rosewood’ is a catchy English tradename for many woods. Some are indeed superior like the ‘makha’ (Afzelia xylocarpa, Fabaceae), some are quite poor like ‘Burmese rosewood’ (Pterocarpus indicus, Fabaceae). The real rosewood, the wood used by the Chinese for their superb red furniture with mother-of-pearl inlays, belongs to the genus Dalbergia. This genus of trees with a dark, rose-scented wood is known from South America (Dalbergia nigra) as well as from southern China and Southeast Asia. A local hero here in Chiang Mai is Dalbergia oliveri. It is called ‘chingchan’ in Central Thai language, but ‘ket dam’ or ‘ket daeng’ in northern Thai langauge. ‘Chingchan rosewood’ would be a good English name to distinguish it from other rosewoods. ‘Burma pallisander’ or ‘Burma tulipwood’ are other tradenames but not very suitable.
This picture was taken at Dokmai Garden yesterday when we had Australian garden tour guests. The young leaves are refreshingly rose-coloured for a few days. Please note the shade which elegantly performed a ballet on the white brick wall. The movements of the shade reminded me of reflections from water. So elegant, so lovely, in nature exploited almost to exhaustion, but you can get seedlings for free from any governmental Thai tree nursery. This generous and clever offer from the intellectual elite of Thailand does not necessarily mean this miracle of life is safe. In spite of the economical risks with monocultures most land owners only plant teak, since they can cash it quickly. The slow growth of a Chingchan does not fit the fast buck-society. The sapling seen here is four years old.
Update: the first flowers of the sapling shown above emerged on February 24th, 2013.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell