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Dalbergia louvelii R.Vig.

Notul. Syst. (Paris) 14(3): 184 (1951).
Papilionaceae (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae, Fabaceae)
Vernacular names
Volombodipona à grandes feuilles (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Dalbergia louvelii is endemic to eastern Madagascar, where it occurs from Maroantsetra in the north to Manakara in the south.
The wood of Dalbergia louvelii is one of the so-called rosewoods (‘Madagascar rosewood’, ‘palisander’) much in demand for cabinet making, furniture, marquetry and parquet flooring. It is one of the favoured woods for musical instruments. In Madagascar it is in high demand for carving and turning, and it has been used traditionally for tombs. The heartwood is used in traditional medicine to treat bilharzia and malaria.
Production and international trade
Madagascar rosewood is still traded on the international market, usually in small volumes and at high prices, for special applications such as musical instruments. In recent years it has replaced Brazilian rosewood (from Dalbergia nigra (Vell.) Benth.) because this South-American species has been included in Appendix I of CITES. It is often traded as quarter-sawn pieces of comparatively small dimensions. However, larger trees of Dalbergia louvelii have become so rare that the share of this species in the total export is probably very small or practically zero.
The heartwood is purplish red, becoming purplish black upon drying. The texture is fine and even, and the wood has a beautiful polish. It is very heavy and very hard. The wood has a density of 800–900 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. The rates of shrinkage are rather low, from green to oven dry 3.4–4.6% radial and 5.8–7.6% tangential.
Several flavonoids have been isolated from the heartwood, some of which showed antiplasmodial activity in vitro.
Adulterations and substitutes
The wood of several other Dalbergia species from Madagascar is traded as Madagascar rosewood or palisander.
Deciduous medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall; bark greyish; young branches short-hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, imparipinnately compound with 9–15 leaflets; stipules small, caducous; petiole and rachis bristly hairy but glabrescent; petiolules 1–2.5 mm long; leaflets alternate, ovate to elliptical, (1–)2–4 cm × 0.5–1.5 cm, thinly leathery, usually hairy on both surfaces. Inflorescence an axillary raceme shorter than the leaves, hairy. Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous, 12–15(–18) mm long; pedicel 2–10 mm long, jointed; calyx campanulate, 7–10 mm long, lobes about as long as tube, lower lobe longer, upper lobes fused; corolla whitish, with almost circular standard and clawed wings and keel; stamens 10, fused into a tube, but free in upper part; ovary superior, with distinct stipe at base, style slender, 2.5–3.5 mm long. Fruit a flat, oblong-elliptical pod 4–8 cm × c. 1.5 cm, with slender stipe 1–1.5 cm long, reddish brown, slightly reticulately veined, indehiscent, 1–2-seeded. Seeds kidney-shaped, c. 13 mm × 6 mm, reddish brown.
Other botanical information
Dalbergia is a large pantropical genus comprising about 250 species. Tropical Asia and tropical America have about 70 species each, continental Africa about 50 and Madagascar slightly over 40. In Madagascar many Dalbergia species produce high-quality wood. Dalbergia louvelii is distinguished by its comparatively large flowers. Dalbergia normandii Bosser & R.Rabev., a rare species from eastern Madagascar, has similar flowers, but fewer leaflets per leaf; it provides a Madagascar rosewood of excellent quality, which is used in cabinet making. It is classified as endangered in the IUCN Red list. The flowers of Dalbergia maritima R.Vig. also resemble those of Dalbergia louvelii, but they are smaller and, moreover, the leaflets are smaller. The wood of Dalbergia maritima resembles that of Dalbergia louvelii and is used for cabinet making and for construction, but this species has also become endangered in its area of distribution in eastern Madagascar. Dalbergia xerophila Bosser & R.Rabev., a shrub adapted to arid regions in south-western Madagascar, has racemose inflorescences similar to those of Dalbergia louvelii, but is characterized by small leaves and condensed side shoots; its stems are used for shafts of spears. It is also classified as endangered in the IUCN Red list.
Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):
Growth rings: (1: growth ring boundaries distinct); (2: growth ring boundaries indistinct or absent). Vessels: 5: wood diffuse-porous; 13: simple perforation plates; 22: intervessel pits alternate; 23: shape of alternate pits polygonal; 26: intervessel pits medium ( 7–10 μm); (27: intervessel pits large ( 10 μm)); 29: vestured pits; 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; 42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm; (43: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 200 μm); 46: 5 vessels per square millimetre; 58: gums and other deposits in heartwood vessels. Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 66: non-septate fibres present. Axial parenchyma: 76: axial parenchyma diffuse; 77: axial parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates; 80: axial parenchyma aliform; 82: axial parenchyma winged-aliform; 83: axial parenchyma confluent; 86: axial parenchyma in narrow bands or lines up to three cells wide; (89: axial parenchyma in marginal or in seemingly marginal bands); (90: fusiform parenchyma cells); 91: two cells per parenchyma strand; (92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand). Rays: (96: rays exclusively uniseriate); (97: ray width 1–3 cells); 104: all ray cells procumbent; 106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells; 115: 4–12 rays per mm; 116: 12 rays per mm. Storied structure: 118: all rays storied; 120: axial parenchyma and/or vessel elements storied. Mineral inclusions: 136: prismatic crystals present; 142: prismatic crystals in chambered axial parenchyma cells.
(P. Détienne & P.E. Gasson)
Growth and development
Dalbergia louvelii flowers in January–February. The roots are able to form nodules with nitrogen-fixing bacteria; Bradyrhizobium, Rhizobium, Phyllobacterium and Burkholderia strains have been isolated from the root nodules.
Dalbergia louvelii occurs in lowland evergreen forest and coastal forest, up to 700 m altitude. It occurs on ferrallitic or sandy soils.
Genetic resources
The habitat of Dalbergia louvelii, i.e. lowland evergreen forest and coastal forest, has been much reduced. Moreover, it is selectively felled, and large trees of Dalbergia louvelii have been rare for over 80 years. Populations have become severely fragmented. It is included in the IUCN Red list of threatened species, where it is classified as endangered.
Dalbergia louvelii has long been overexploited, and has probably already disappeared from the timber market as stands have been depleted. Protection of remaining stands is badly needed, and Dalbergia louvelii will only have a role as commercial timber in the future if plantations are successful, which is unlikely because trees presumably grow slowly. However, research into propagation techniques and proper management methods seems worthwhile in light of the excellent properties of the wood.
Major references
• Beldjoudi, N., Mambu, L., Labaied, M., Grellier, P., Ramanitrahasimbola, D., Rasoanaivo, P., Martin, M.T. & Frappier, F., 2003. Flavonoids from Dalbergia louvelii and their antiplasmodial activity. Journal of Natural Products 66(11): 1447–1450.
• du Puy, D.J., Labat, J.N., Rabevohitra, R., Villiers, J.-F., Bosser, J. & Moat, J., 2002. The Leguminosae of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 750 pp.
• Guéneau, P., Bedel, J. & Thiel, J., 1970–1975. Bois et essences malgaches. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 150 pp.
• Normand, D., 1988. A propos des bois de rose de Madagascar. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques 217: 89–94.
Other references
• du Puy, D., 1998. Dalbergia louvelii. In: IUCN. 2006 Red list of threatened species. [Internet] Accessed November 2006.
• Rasolomampianina, R., Bailly, X., Fetiarison, R., Rabevohitra, R., Béna, G., Ramaroson, L., Raherimandimby, M., Moulin, L., de Lajudie, P., Dreyfus, B. & Avarre, J .-C., 2005. Nitrogen fixing nodules from rose wood legume trees (Dalbergia spp.) endemic to Madagascar host seven different genera belonging to α- and β-proteobacteria. Molecular Ecology 14(13): 4135–4146.
• Richter, H.G. & Dallwitz, M.J., 2000. Commercial timbers: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. [Internet]. Version 18th October 2002. Accessed December 2006.
Sources of illustration
• Guéneau, P., Bedel, J. & Thiel, J., 1970–1975. Bois et essences malgaches. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 150 pp.
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

D. Louppe
CIRAD, Département Environnements et Sociétés, Cirad es-dir, Campus international de Baillarguet, TA C-DIR / B (Bât. C, Bur. 113), 34398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
A.A. Oteng-Amoako
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
J.R. Cobbinah
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
Photo editor
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2007. Dalbergia louvelii R.Vig. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

flowering and fruiting branch.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman

tree habit



wooden sculpture