rosewood, popular name for the ornamental wood of several species of tropical trees, especially for the heartwood of certain leguminous trees of the genus Dalbergia of the family Leguminosae (pulse family). Brazilian rosewood, or jacaranda ( D. nigra ), is one of Brazil's finest woods, important in commerce for 300 years but now close to extinction. It is obtained from the purplish-black heartwood of old trees, is rather oily, fragrant—whence the name—and durable and is used whole or in veneers for piano casings and other kinds of cabinetwork and for tools, instruments, brush backs, and other articles. The oil obtained from the wood and leaves is used in fragrances and soaps. Honduras rosewood ( D. stevensonii ) is now used chiefly in percussion instruments (e.g., the marimba and the xylophone) where Brazilian rosewood was formerly employed. Among Old World species are the East Indian rosewood, or black rosewood ( D. latifolia ), which is a deep, rich purple streaked with golden yellow to black, and the very hard African blackwood ( D. melanoxylon ), which is used as a substitute for ebony. Rosewoods are sometimes used locally for domestic remedies, and several—including trees of other genera also called rosewood—have been introduced into the S United States as ornamentals and for lumber. The genus is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.