Diospyros ebenum (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Diospyros ebenum Koenig

Protologue: Physiogr. Salsk. Handl. (Lund) 1: 176 (1781).


  • Diospyros glaberrima Rottb. (1783).

Vernacular names

  • Ceylon ebony, Mauritius ebony (En).


Southern India and Sri Lanka; cultivated in Peninsular Malaysia.


D. ebenum is said to produce the best commercial black ebony. It is mainly exported to China for furniture and to Europe as fancy wood.

The gummy astringent fruits are used as a medicine and eaten in times of famine. They are also used as fish poison, and the tree has been planted in India as a shade tree for cardamom.


  • A medium-sized tree up to 30 m tall, bole straight, up to 90 cm in diameter, with buttresses up to 2 m high, bark surface scaly, fissured, black to grey-black.
  • Leaves ovate-oblong to oblong-lanceolate, 5-13 cm × 2-6 cm, base cuneate to rounded, apex slightly acuminate to rounded, glabrous, tertiary venation reticulate, inconspicuous above, prominent below.
  • Flowers mostly male and bisexual; male flowers in 3-16-flowered cymes, 4-merous, stamens 16; female and bisexual flowers solitary, 3-4-merous, calyx lobes valvate, glabrous, corolla divided to about halfway, staminodes 8, ovary with a single 4-5-lobed style and 8 uni-ovulate locules.
  • Fruit depressed globose to subglobose, up to 1.5 cm across, glabrous.

D. ebenum has been known for its black wood since ancient times. Its reported occurrence in Sulawesi and eastwards is erroneous. It occurs naturally in comparatively dry areas.

Selected sources

42, 104, 120, 204, 457, 586, 705.