The Sandalwood family is a family of semi-parasites. This means they obtain some of their water and simple nutrients by tapping into other plants but manufacture their own complex compounds. Because they are photosynthetic, they contain chlorophyll. The 'Santalaceae' consists of tropical and temperate herbs, shrubs, and trees. It contains about 35 genera and 400 species but is represented in our area by only one species, Comandra umbellatum or Bastard Toadflax. The leaves are usually simple, entire, and spirally arranged, but a few genera have opposite leaves, some have reduced, scalelike leaves, and a few have no leaves, having flattened branches which imitate true leaves. The flowers are generally small and inconspicuous. The flower parts are united at the base and ends in a single whorl of 3 to 6 greenish or white segments. The number of stamens equals the number of flower parts segments and the stamens themselves are opposite the lobes. The ovary is inferior or semi-inferior and has one locule with 1-5 ovules, only one of which develops. The fruit is a nut or a drupe and is often sticky, an adaptation to dispersal by birds. The only economically important member of the family is Santalum album or Sandalwood Tree, which has a fragrant timber that is used in carving and carpentry and as a form of incense and for joss sticks. Sandal oil is used in soap, perfumes, and massage oils. Exocarpos cupressiformis is known as the Australian cherry and has edible, presumably red, fruit.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of the Sandalwood Family
FLOWERS SEVERAL, IN TERMINAL CLUSTERS
Comandra umbellata Pale Comandra Parasitic herb, 5-30 cm tall, leafy, branched, usually clustered. Plains-foothills.
Flowers white, 6-8 mm wide, with 5 pointed sepals, in dense clusters.
Leaves alternate, almost stalkless, elliptic, 5-40 mm long and 1-10 mm broad.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Sandalwood family: