Caesalpinia sappan L.

Caesalpinia sappan L.




Biancaea sappan (L.) Todaro.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Sepang (General).
English Sappanwood, Indian redwood.
Indonesia Kayu secang, soga jawa (Javanese), secang (Sundanese).
Thailand Faang (General), faang som (Kanchanaburi), ngaai (Karen, Kanchanaburi).
Philippines Sibukao (Tagalog, Bisaya), sapang (Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilokano).
Myanmar Teing-nyet.
Cambodia Sbaèng.
Laos Faang dèèng.
Vietnam Vang nhuôm, tô môc.
French Sappan.

Geographical Distributions

The origin of Caesalpinia sappan is not certain, but it is believed to be in the region from central and southern India through Burma, Thailand, Indo-China and southern China to Peninsular Malaysia. It is cultivated and naturalised in many parts of Malaysia (Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea) and also in India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Solomon Islands, and Hawaii.


Caesalpinia sappan is a small shrubby tree which can grow up to 4-8(-10) m tall. The roots are fibrous and wiry, lacking nodules and dark coloured. Its trunk measures up to 14 cm in diametre. The bark is with distinct ridges and with many prickles. It is greyish-brown when young while the twigs and buds are hairy and brownish.

The leaves are stipulate, bipinnate, measure up to 50 cm long and with 8-16 pairs of pinnae up to 20 cm long. The pinnae is with prickles at the base and with 10-20 pairs of oblong subsessile leaflets, measuring 10-20 mm x 6-10 mm long, very oblique at the base and rounded to emarginate at the apex.

The flowers are in terminal panicles. The 5-merous flowers are 2-2.5 cm wide and yellow. The sepals are hairless but the petals are covered with soft hairs. There are 10 stamens while the filaments are woolly-hairy in the lower half. The ovary is superior and hairy.

The fruit is a dehiscent pod, 2-5-seeded, oblong-obovate, measuring 7-9 cm x 3-4 cm, strongly flattened, shiny and smooth with curved beak at the apex. It is yellowish-green when young to reddish-brown when it ripens. The brown seeds are ellipsoid, flattened and measuring 18-20 mm x 10-12 mm.

Ecology / Cultivation

Under natural conditions, Caesalpinia sappan grows mostly in hilly areas with clayey soil and calcareous rocks at low and medium altitudes. In Peninsular Malaysia, it grows best on sandy riverbanks. It does not tolerate excessively wet soil conditions. Caesalpinia sappan is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 700-4300 mm, annual mean temperature of 24-27.5°C, and soil pH of 5-7.5.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 3: Dye and tannin-producing plants.