Dalbergia sissoo: Sheesham

Family: Fabaceae
Common name: Sheesham, Shisham, North Indian rosewood, Indian rosewood, Sissoo

Sheesham is a short, sturdy tree extensively used in India for its timber – in making furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, and floorboards. They are deciduous trees that are native to the Indian subcontinent.

Though these trees are widely cultivated for their valuable timber, they could also be grown as ornamental trees because of their short, spreading crown and bright, green leaves. They are a popular choice among gardeners and landscape designers for these reasons.

Sheesham trees are medium to large-sized tree, reaching heights of up to 25 meters with broad, rounded canopy, providing ample shade during hot summer months. The bark of the tree is thick, dark brown, gnarled, and deeply fissured, adding to its aesthetic appeal.

The leaves are compound and pinnate, consisting of numerous small leaflets that are shiny, dark green, and alternate in arrangement. Leaflets are broadly heart-shaped, about 6-8 cm long.

The tree produces a profusion of flowers during the spring season, adorned with dense clusters of small, fragrant, pink or white flowers. These flowers not only add beauty to the landscape but also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

As the flowers fade, small, flat seed pods begin to develop that are initially green but turn brown and woody as they mature. Each pod is about 6-8 cm long and contains several small, brownish-black seeds.

Sheesham trees thrive in warm and tropical climates with well-draining soil. They grow well with full sun exposure, producing abundant flowers and fruits. The tree has moderate water requirements, so regular watering during dry periods is essential. Pruning can help the tree grow bushy and well-rounded.

These trees have some medicinal uses, and are used in the treatment of inflammations, gonorrhea, wounds, and skin diseases. Parts of the tree have insecticidal properties, and the twigs are used for make toothbrushes. Sheesham trees are also grown as shade and ornamental trees.

Belonging to Fabaceae family, these trees can fix atmospheric nitrogen, converting them into forms that can be easily absorbed by plants.

Sheesham trees are mostly grown for their strong timber, with heartwood that is golden or dark brown. Wood grains are sometimes straight and sometimes interlocked, giving them beautiful textures while making furniture like tables.

The wood is easy to plane, saw, glue, and polish giving a smooth surface. Hence they are used for making houses, doors, windows, frames, cabinets, shutters, vehicles, boats, furniture, bentwood articles, and a host of smaller implements, as well as toys.

Propagation is through seeds, stem cuttings, and grafting.