Characteristics of Macassar Ebony / Black Ebony Trees (Diospyros celebica) in the Wild

Diospyros celebica
Macassar Ebony or more familiarly called Black Ebony is a tree that produces expensive wood from the Ebenaceae tribe. This tree only grows on the island of Sulawesi and is endemic to the Palu area, Central Sulawesi.

This tree produces very good quality wood. The color of the wood is dark brown, blackish, or black with reddish mottles. In international trade the wood is known as Macassar ebony, Coromandel ebony, Streaked ebony, or also Black ebony. Other names in Indonesia include Kayu hitam, Toetandu, Sora, Kayu lotong, and Kayu maitong.

The wood is very heavy with a specific gravity exceeding water, so it cannot float. The wood is mainly used for expensive furniture, carvings and sculptures, musical instruments, poles, sticks, and jewelry boxes.

 

Characteristics of Macassar Ebony Leaf

Diospyros celebica Leaf
Source: flickr.com/Nelindah

The leaves are single, arranged alternately, in an elongated shape, with a tapered tip. The upper surface of the leaves is shiny, dark green, the lower surface is hairy and grayish-green.

 

Characteristics of Macassar Ebony Flower

Diospyros celebica Flower
Source: flickr.com/Plantaholic Sheila

The flowers appear in groups from the axillary leaves and are white.

 

Characteristics of Macassar Ebony Fruit

Diospyros celebica Fruit
Source: flickr.com/Nelindah

The fruit is ovate, hairy and yellowish-green, and brown when old. The whitish flesh is often eaten by monkeys, squirrels, and bats (which also act as a natural seed-dispersing agent). The seeds are shaped like an elongated wedge and are blackish-brown in color.

 

Characteristics of Macassar Ebony Tree

Diospyros celebica Tree
Source: flickr.com/Plantaholic Sheila

The tree can grow up to 40-60 meters tall and has an upright trunk. The diameter of the lower stems can be up to 1 meter, and often buttresses (root boards). The bark is grooved, peels into small pieces, and is blackish-brown in color.

Macassar Ebony is only found on the island of Sulawesi, grows wild in primary forests on clay, sandy soils, or rocky soils that have good drainage, with an altitude reaching 600 m above sea level.

The wood has been exported abroad since the 18th century. Its main markets are Japan, Europe, and the United States.

Due to slow population development and high levels of exploitation in nature, now the Macassar Ebony tree is threatened with extinction. This wood export reached its peak in 1973 with an amount of about 26,000 m3, and then in subsequent years, it continued to decline due to shortages of stock in nature.

To protect it, IUCN has now declared its status as vulnerable, and CITES has included it in Appendix 2.

 

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