Geographic and phenotypic variation in heartwood and essential-oil characters in natural populations of Santalum austrocaledonicum in Vanuatu

Chem Biodivers. 2010 Aug;7(8):1990-2006. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.200900382.


Phenotypic variation in heartwood and essential-oil characters of Santalum austrocaledonicum was assessed across eleven populations on seven islands of Vanuatu. Trees differed significantly in their percentage heartwood cross-sectional area and this varied independently of stem diameter. The concentrations of the four major essential-oil constituents (alpha-santalol, beta-santalol, (Z)-beta-curcumen-12-ol, and cis-nuciferol) of alcohol-extracted heartwood exhibited at least tenfold and continuous tree-to-tree variation. Commercially important components alpha- and beta-santalol found in individual trees ranged from 0.8-47% and 0-24.1%, respectively, across all populations, and significant (P<0.05) differences for each were found between individual populations. The Erromango population was unique in that the mean concentrations of its monocyclic ((Z)-beta-curcumen-12-ol and cis-nuciferol) sesquiterpenes exceeded those of its bi- and tricyclic (alpha- and beta-santalol) sesquiterpenes. Heartwood colour varied between trees and spanned 65 colour categories, but no identifiable relationships were found between heartwood colour and alpha- and beta-santalol, although a weak relationship was evident between colour saturation and total oil concentration. These results indicate that the heartwood colour is not a reliable predictive trait for oil quality. The results of this study highlight the knowledge gaps in fundamental understanding of heartwood biology in Santalum genus. The intraspecific variation in heartwood cross-sectional area, oil concentration, and oil quality traits is of considerable importance to the domestication of sandalwood and present opportunities for the development of highly superior S. austrocaledonicum cultivars that conform to the industry's International Standards used for S. album.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry*
  • Phenotype*
  • Plant Components, Aerial / chemistry*
  • Santalum / chemistry*
  • Santalum / classification
  • Vanuatu


  • Oils, Volatile