Sal (Shorea Robusta)
This large, evergreen, gregarious tree is found in North India, up to an elevation of 914 meters. The timber is largely used for railway sleepers. The tree gives an aromatic resin which is burnt as incense, also to caulk boat and ships. The fruit yields oil which is used for burning and is sometime used to adulterate ghee in north India.
The Sal tree is found in abundance in Madhya Pradesh. There are a pair of Sal trees in Kanha National Park, known as 'raja' and 'rani', measuring over 25 m. There is a Sal tree in Corbett National Park which is said to be about 40m in height and is also very old. Wildlife tourists may find Sal trees fallen across the jungle roads soon after a hurricane as Sal trees break during heavy winds.
The wood is used in the manufacture of carved boxes, frame, fancy articles etc. The paste is formed by rubbing the wood on a stone and is largely used by the Hindus who add a piece of sandalwood in the funeral pyre as a mark of respect. They also apply sandalwood paste on their forehead during religious ceremonies and rituals. Certain amount of sandalwood is consumed in the distillations of valuable sandal oil used in perfumery and medicine. The wood is sold by weight and is by far the most valuable. The specialty of the sandalwood trees is that it is a parasitic tree during its initial growth and it needs the support of the host tree to grow. After a few years, it chokes the host tree and continues to grow. It has a life span of 70 to 80 years. The lowest stem and the root-wood contain most valuable sandalwood oil. The present selling price of sandalwood is nearly Rs. 2.25 lacks per ton. Since, only Tamil Nadu and Karnataka claim the existence of sandalwood trees, there are groups of smugglers who steal this valuable wood. As per the low no one can own the sandalwood trees. Every tree whether on public and private land belongs to the government. The Sandal Wood Research Institute of Bangaluru, is experimenting with the creation of an artificial plantation to increase the revenue of the Forest Department. It is against the law for anyone to keep more than 5 kg of sandalwood without the permit.