Though it is known as a deciduous tree, it can gift you dense shade nearly year-round! The Indian Rosewood or popularly, Shisham (Dalbergia Sissoo/शिसम, शिसव) is an awesome almost-evergreen tree with many benefits to its name.
Shisham is a hardy tree which do not require much care. And with its multiple products, tolerance of light frosts and long dry seasons, this species deserves greater consideration for tree farming, reforestation and agroforestry applications. After Teak, it is the most important cultivated tree in India, planted on roadsides and as a shade tree for tea plantations. It is moderately fast growing tree which gives excellent charcoal, coppices well enough, gives good fodder, used for erosion control as a living barrier against soil movement. Hence it may be planted as one component of a multi-tiered home garden system, where it contributes several products. Probably, that's the reason Shisham is honored to be the state tree of Punjab.
Young branches and foliage form an excellent fodder. The foliage has normally been used as emergency feed when other fodder sources fail. It also is a useful source of honey. The honey produced is dark amber with a strong flavour. Many medicinal uses for its fresh leaves, dried bark, and wood rasping are reported from its native region. Shisham is reported to be a stimulant used in folk medicine and remedies. Oil obtained from the seeds is used to cure skin diseases. The powdered wood, applied externally as a paste, is reportedly used to treat leprosy and skin diseases.
Shisham is also known to have some pesticidal properties. It is propagated from seeds & cuttings. Seeds should be soaked in water for 48 hours before sowing.
Other agricultural uses include as a windbreak in Mango, coffee and tea plantations. These shade-loving crops also benefit from improved soil fertility under the tree. Due to its vigorous reproduction through suckers, it is useful for stabilizing eroding sites. It is therefore found in a variety of wastelands, where it is known as a colonizing species. The tree is known to fix the atmospheric nitrogen with the help of nodules. Also, heavy litter fall decomposes to enrich the soil with nitrogen, phosphorus and organic carbon. Thus improving soil fertility.
The tree has beautiful whitish pink, fragrant flowers which appear in dense clusters. But in their absence also, it looks equally beautiful due to its leaves which are leathery, alternate, pinnately compound. Shisham is widely used for ornamental purposes in urban and roadside plantings in the Indian subcontinent and in other parts of the world. The fact that makes the tree even more attractive is it has an unusual amenity use as a host for orchids. Hence it is noted as one of the most desirable trees for streets and backyards in many countries. It has also been used for landscaping along the shores.
Another species from the same genus, Black Rosewood (Dalbergia Latifolia/दोंडूस, फणशी) is also similarly wonderful tree. It is predominantly a single-stem deciduous tree with a dome shaped crown of lush green foliage. It flowers abundantly in aromatic clusters of pinkish white colour creating a eye-soothening view. Furthermore, thought it sheds its leaves, it can hardly be found leafless. Due to these reasons, it attracts number of birds, butterflies and insects. Hence the tree need to be introduced in home gardens in urban societies.
Black Rosewood is often mistakened for Shisham, and practically, they both are similar to each other in every aspect, including their use in agroforestry, apiculture, hardiness, medicines, ornamental or soil improvement. It is a Nitrogen-fixing tree and gives the nitrogen-rich foliage which is widely used as a green manure and fodder. It is propagated by seeds or cuttings.
Both these trees are excellent choice for farmers as well as city dwellers.