We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Santalum ellipticum - Gaudich.

Common Name Coast Sandalwood
Family Santalaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Usually near the ocean shore; less often inland in dry gulches, on slopes or ridges, and frequently in rocky habitats; arid shrub land and forest, often persisting in areas invaded by non_native species; at elevations up to 560 metres[312 ],
Range Pacific - Hawaii.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Semi-shade Full sun
Santalum ellipticum Coast Sandalwood

Santalum ellipticum Coast Sandalwood
Forest & Kim Starr wikimedia.org


Translate this page:


A slow-growing, flowering plant endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, Santalum ellipticum or known for its common English name Coast Sandalwood grows up to 5m in height and 30cm in bole diameter. The leaves are grayish green and can either be leathery or soft. The flowers are compound and green. The fruits are purple to black when ripe containing a single seed. Coast Sandalwood is a hemi-parasitic species obtaining water and nutrients from nearby host plants. Medicinally, the plant is used to treat dandruff, head lice, sores, and sexually transmitted diseases. The heartwood contains highly-valued essential oil which is used in perfumery, cosmetics, aromatherapy, etc. Coast Sandalwood is also used for carving, handicrafts, and decorative furniture.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Santalum ellipticum is an evergreen Tree growing to 5 m (16ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


No synonyms are recorded for this name.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

Seed - tasty[312 ]. The scarcity of seeds, and their high value for propagation, makes their use as food somewhat inappropriate[312 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

A drink made from finely ground powdered heartwood, mixed with other plants, followed by laxative was used in curing venereal diseases in both males and females[312 ]. The powdered heartwood is combined with Piper methysticum, Eugenia reinwardtiana, Bobea species and Alphitonia ponderosa[417 ]. For treating severe sores, the powdered wood is combined with the wood of Melicope hawaiensis and Bobea species, combined with Piper methysticum and the bark of Syzygium malaccense[417 ]. A shampoo made from a leaf infusion, sometimes combined with the ashes of Myoporum sandwicense, has been used for curing dandruff and eliminating head lice[312 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Cosmetic  Essential  Fuel  Hair  Incense  Parasiticide  Repellent  Soap making  Wood

Other Uses: A high quality essential oil is obtained from the heartwood. This oil was traditionally used to a limited extent to scent coconut oil (for application to the hair and body) and cultural artifacts such as tapa cloth. Today, the oil is highly valued for use in perfumery, cosmetics, incense sticks, aromatherapy etc[312 ]. A mixture of heartwood and sapwood is powdered and made into incense or joss sticks which are used in eastern religious ceremonies. Sawdust, wood shavings from carving, or wood residue after oil distillation may be used[312 ]. The highest value sandalwood is used for carving religious statues and objects, handicrafts, art, and decorative furniture. Larger basal pieces and roots are preferred for carving. In Hawaii, sandalwood is sometimes used to make musical instruments such as the musical bow[312 ]. The wood has sometimes been used for fuel, but does not make a useful charcoal[312 ]. The wood has usually been added in small amounts to a fire for its aromatic scent and as a mosquito repellent[312 ]. The wood is rarely used for traditional purposes nowadays because of its scarcity and its very high cash value. However, it has been used for making canoe paddles, carvings, cultural purposes, medicine, and was burnt as an insect repellent[312 ]. The heartwood was powdered and used to scent coconut oil, or sprinkled over new tapa cloth to perfume it and make it waterproof[312 ].

Special Uses

Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Santalum ellipticum is a plant of arid lowland habitats in the Hawaiian Islands, growing at elevations up to 560 metres, exceptionally to 960 metres. It grows in frost-free areas; the mean annual rainfall can range from 50 - 1,300mm, usually with a dry season of 2 - 5 months and often with a summer drought[312 ]. Prefers a position with moderate side shade, but little overhead shade; it grows poorly in deeper shade, but can do well in full sun if attached to a suitable host[312 ]. Tolerant of a range of soil conditions, including infertile and shallow soils, but grows best in a light to medium, well-drained soil[312 ]. Prefers a neutral to slightly alkaline soil with a pH 6.1 - 7.4, but can tolerate 4 - 7.4[312 ]. Established plants are able to survive a long dry season (up to 5 - 6 months) when attached parasitically to suitably drought_tolerant host plants[312 ]. Tolerant of strong, salt-laden winds[312 ]. Although the tree has become much less common in its native habitat due to the ravages of introduced grazing animals and rats, the tree does actually have the potential to become invasive, spreading by seeds and root suckers. However, this has not been seen as a problem in the past, mainly due to the high value of the wood and the ease with which they can be shaded out by taller trees[312 ]. A slow-growing species, showing annual height increases of 30 - 70cm a year when young. Growth is faster in fertile soils but the tree is then at risk of being shaded out or overtopped by taller, faster growing trees on such sites[312 ]. Under good conditions, plants begin flowering from an early age, typically about 3 - 4 years, but heavy flowering and fruiting may take 7 - 10 years[312 ]. Trees can flower and produce fruit throughout the year, usually with two peaks. The flowers produce a strong fragrance[312 ]. Trees produce root suckers, especially if cut down, when a ring of suckers will often appear several metres away from the original stump[312 ]. A semi-parasitic plant, obtaining some of its nutriment from the roots of other plants[144 ]. The plant has green leaves containing chlorophyll, and is thus able to photosynthesize - it relies on host plants only for water and soil nutrients, not for sugars, which it can produce itself[343 ]. It normally has more than one host at a time[343 ]. The species is flexible in the plants it can use as a host, being found in association with species such as Wikstroemia sandwicensis, Pritchardia remota, Chenopodium oahuense, Chamaesyce hypericifolia, and various introduced grass species[312 ]. In the field, seedlings should be planted near potential host plants[337 ]. Seedlings are generally planted within existing vegetation near potentially suitable hosts[337 ]. Success is generally good, especially in locations where seedlings can be watered occasionally and weed competition is controlled[337 ]. Periodic trimming of the secondary host may benefit seedlings[337 ]. Flowering Time: Late Spring/Early Summer Mid Summer. Bloom Color: Bright Yellow. Spacing: 15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m) 20-30 ft. (6-9 m) 30-40 ft. (9-12 m).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a fairly short viability and so is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a shady position in trays in a nursery. The optimum temperature for germination is between 28 - 31°c[312 ]. Making a small nick in the seedcoat, without damaging the embryo, can help to speed up germination rates. Germination rates can vary, with up to 90% of seeds sprouting within three weeks when sown fresh and treated with a nick. Prick out the seedlings into individual containers when large enough to handle, perhaps placing a host plant in the pot at the same time. Gradually increase light levels as the plant grows until it is compatible with the plant's intended destination. Plant out when around 20 - 25cm tall[312 ]. Container-grown plants need to be planted out close to a host tree by the time they are 6 months old[312 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here


Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

United States, Hawaii*, Pacific.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

The tree has the potential to become invasive, spreading by seeds and root suckers. However, this has not been seen as a problem in the past, mainly due to the high value of the wood and the ease with which they can be shaded out by taller trees[312 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Santalum acuminatumQuandongShrub0.0 -  LMHSNM112
Santalum austrocaledonicumPacific SandalwoodTree10.0 10-12 SLMNDM014
Santalum freycinetianumLanai Sandalwood, Hawaiian SandalwoodTree10.0 9-12 SLMSND124
Santalum haleakalaeHaleakala Sandalwood, LliahiTree3.0 9-12 SLMSND124
Santalum lanceolatum Shrub0.0 -  LMHSNM112
Santalum murrayanum Tree0.0 -  LMHSNM10 
Santalum paniculatumMountain Sandalwood, Hawaiian Sandalwood, 'IliahiTree7.5 10-11 SLMSND124
Santalum spicatumWest Australian SandalwoodShrub4.0 10-12 SLMHSND224
Santalum yasiYasi, Fijian Sandalwood, Brown SandalwoodTree10.0 9-12 SLMNDM024

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Santalum ellipticum  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.