Ebony, The Rare Ebony Wood from Sulawesi

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Nostalgic when you were a kid, maybe your parents played a song by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder entitled “Ebony and Ivory” with the lyrics “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh lord, why don’t we?” Translated it means something like this, “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony side by side on my piano keyboard, oh my God, why can’t we?”

It turns out that the ebony referred to in the song is ebony which is ebony from Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Ebony wood itself is often used as a raw material for making musical instruments such as pianos and violins.

Referring to the history of the piano, initially white piano keys were made using ivory (elephant ivory), while for black keys, ebony (black wood) was used.
Over time, because ivory production threatens the elephant population, and ebony is very rare, it is replaced by materials made from ivorite and ebonite plastics.

This is certainly very interesting, considering that Indonesia with all its beauty, is a tropical country filled with various varieties of superior wood, one of which is ebony or black wood originating from Sulawesi, Makassar to be exact.

Come on, identify the origin and unique facts of this rare and expensive wood!

The Origin of Ebony Wood

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Ebony wood is recorded as a phenomenal wood in world history, ancient civilizations in Mesir-Egypt used Ebony wood as a material for making statues of the Gods, Indian Kings for generations have entrusted Glass made of Ebony wood as a poison neutralizer, in Japan Ebony wood has been used for a long time as the handle of a samurai sword, in Indonesia alone ebony is processed into various forms of goods where the existence of ebony is believed to ward off evil spirits and as a symbol of protection, luck, strength, purity, and balance.

Also known as the Latin term (Diospyros celebica), Ebony wood comes from an endemic tree from Central Sulawesi, North Sulawesi and South Sulawesi. Ebony trees have a height of up to 40 meters with a trunk diameter of up to 1 meter. Ebony wood has certain characteristics including: dark brown, slightly blackish, smooth textured with straight or slightly blended wood grain and smooth wood surface. The use of ebony wood to make bridge poles, household furniture, statues, musical instruments, and carvings (Kurniawan and Bayu, 2010).

Ebony can grow on various types of soil such as calcareous soil, sandy soil, clay, and rocky soil that is not flooded. The height of the place where ebony grows from 50-400 meters above sea level, if planted at an altitude above 600 meters, the growth will not be good. Another source also explained that the rainfall ranging from 2000 – 2500 mm/year is a good rainfall in supporting the growth of ebony trees. However, ebony trees can still be planted in dry areas with 1230 mm/year rainfall, seasonal areas with 700 mm/year rainfall, and the wettest areas with 2400-2750 mm/year rainfall.

Ebony Growth Ring

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It is a growing circle that looks like a picture of concentric patterns on a cross-section of wood. The formation of this wood growth ring is due to the different seasons experienced by the tree.
In temperate climates, the growth period is usually one year, in which case the growth ring may be called the “annual ring”.

In the tropics, growth rings may not be visible or annual. Even in temperate climates, the growth ring is sometimes lost, and a second, or “fake” ring, can be kept for a year for example, after insect defoliation. The growth rings differ if the conducting cells produced early in the growth period are larger (spring, or early, wood) than those produced later (summer, or late, wood) or if growth is stopped by a thick-walled fiber layer or by parenchyma. In temperate or cold climates the age of the tree can be determined by counting the number of annual rings at the base of the trunk or, if the trunk is hollow, at the base of the large roots. Annual rings have been used to date ancient wooden structures, especially those of American Indians in the arid southwestern United States; fluctuations in ring width are a source of information about ancient climates.

Chemical Characteristics of Ebony Wood

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Ebony terrace wood has a pattern in the form of alternating black stripes with brownish stripes. Based on the strip pattern, the ebony in Central Sulawesi is grouped into two strip patterns, namely SL ebony and macis stem ebony. This study aims to determine the effect of the strip pattern and the radial direction in the stem on the levels of holocellulose, cellulose, lignin, extractives, ash and pH values. The mean content of holocellulose, cellulose, lignin, ethanol-tolueno extractive, hot water soluble extractive, ash and pH value of ebony wood were 76.59±3.02%, 50.62±4.86%, 26.72± 3.05%, 9.71±2.97%, 13.54±1.43%, 0.97±0.32% and 5.56±0.39. Based on the t-test, the levels of holocellulose, cellulose and hot water soluble extractives were significantly different between strip patterns. Analysis of variance showed that the radial direction of the rods also had a very significant effect on chemical properties. The levels of holocellulose, cellulose, lignin, ethanol-toluene extractive and ash were significantly different between sapwood, intermediate and core. The heartwood has the highest cellulose, lignin, ethanol-toluene extractive content and ash content compared to other positions. Meanwhile, the lowest levels of cellulose, lignin, ash, and pH values ​​were found in intermediate wood.

Ebony Wood Growth Habitat

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1. Where to Grow 

Naturally, ebony stands are found on lowland ridges up to an altitude of 700 m above sea level. However, the observations from the researchers showed that the growth of ebony plants, especially for Diospyros Celebica trees at altitudes above 400 m dpi, was not very good. Based on the above facts for the purposes of plant cultivation, the maximum altitude is 400 m above sea level. The climate pays attention to its natural distribution, it turns out that some ebony stands grow in wet tropical forests and some grow in monsoon forest areas. Ebony stands growing in humid tropical forest areas have a wet climate (rainy type A – D) with an average annual rainfall of 2737 mm per year (Malili, Mamuju, Poso) and those growing in monsoon forest areas with a monsoon climate (rainy type C). ) with an average annual rainfall of 1709 mm per year (Parigi). From the experimental results of planting in Java in a monsoon climate (Cikampek) and a wet climate (Bogor, Pasir Awi) showed no difference in growth. In conclusion, the climate range for ebony cultivation is the wet climate type to the monsoon climate (rainy type A – C).

2. Light and Temperature Needs

Based on the results of the study, forest regeneration carried out in natural ebony forest groups in Central Sulawesi showed that too open habitat and too strong light were not good for the development and growth of ebony seedlings. Likewise, in areas with heavy shade (lack of light), on average many ebony seedlings die. While the tillers in light shade showed good growth, however, after the tillers reached the level of sapling gradually, the shade should be opened and must have received full light for rapid growth. Based on the results of the study above, ebony trees are classified as semi-tolerant tree species to light. The average air temperature required for the development and growth of ebony plants ranges from 22° – 28°C. The maximum air temperature in the dry season ranges from 21.5° – 30°C and the minimum air temperature in the rainy season ranges from 22° – 26°C.

Procurement of Ebony Seeds

1. Collecting Fruits And Seeds

Ebony trees, especially Diospyros Celebica, begin to flower and bear fruit at the age of 5-7 years. Flowering season falls in March – April and ripe fruit in September – November. It is almost similar to its place of origin in Sulawesi (Poso). In this area, the ripe fruit season is reported in September – October, and the flowering season is estimated in March – April. Collection of ripe fruit should be done on a tree, because fruit collected from the forest floor is easily damaged by the fungus Penicilliopsis Clavaria Reformis. The characteristics of ripe fruit are red-yellow skin or brown color, hairy and dark brown seeds. The collected fruit is immediately transported to the nursery and the seeds are immediately extracted there. The number of seeds per kg is 1100 seeds. Seed Quality Selection of new seeds is based on whether or not the seeds are damaged. New seeds generally have a high germination rate of about 85%. Seeds quickly lose germination when left in the open. Seeds that were dried in the sun for 3 days had a germination rate of 0%. To maintain seed germination, in storage the seeds are mixed with wet charcoal in a ratio of 1:1. In this way the seed germination can be maintained 70% for a period of 12 days. With regard to the above, in the context of making ebony seedlings, it is necessary to have a careful arrangement between the time of seed collection and the readiness of the nursery, in order to obtain a large number of seeds as expected.

2. How to Make Seeds

Ebony tree seedlings are semi-tolerant tree species, so the nursery must be made in a slightly shady place. New seeds must be sown directly into containers or plastic bags that have been filled with growing media. After the seedlings are 8-10 months old with a seedling height of ±25-3 0 cm, they are strong enough to be planted in the field. If the seeds are made using natural saplings, then the collection is done by plucking. The height of the saplings collected to be used as seedlings is a maximum of 15 cm. Before being planted in the field, the seeds must be weaned in the nursery for ±4-5 months. Stump seeds are used in an emergency, for example the seeds to be planted in the field are too high, making it difficult to transport them to the field. From the results of the research that has been done, it shows that the best size of the stump is 0.5 – 1 cm in diameter, if it is presented it is around 50 – 70%.

3. Ebony Planting Techniques

For planting purposes, it is better to develop ebony tree species that have adequate silvicultural status and the wood is classified as high commercial and the seeds are easy to obtain. Among the seven types of ebony trees that exist in Indonesia, Diospyros Celebica is eligible to be developed according to the criteria above. Land preparation for planting ebony trees depends on the condition of the land. In open areas such as vacant land or grasslands, total land clearing is carried out. Meanwhile, in the area of ​​shrubs or standing stands left by logging, land preparation is carried out in the form of lines with a width of 1-2 m. Planting in open areas should be preceded by planting shade trees. Ebony tree planting is done after adequate shade plants to use as shade. The spacing for shade trees is 3 x 1.5 m or 2.5 x 2.5 m and the spacing for ebony trees is 5 x 5 m or 3 x 3 m. Once the ebony tree reaches the sapling level, the shade tree should be removed gradually. Weed control was carried out four times; in the first year twice a year, in the second and third years once each. For plants in the line of maintenance carried out until the fifth year. The first stand thinning was carried out after the crowns intersect and the interval was every 10 years.


Ebony wood does have many interesting stories to discuss, apart from its cultivation, ebony wood also has unique facts circulating in the community, especially for the people of Sulawesi, you know! They have a belief that Ebony Wood is a symbol of protection, luck, strength, purity and balance in life.

Even though you are not part of a society that believes in this, of course it is obligatory for us to respect each other and perpetuate the trust of other people who have been present for generations.
The easiest way to do that is to keep trying to maintain and preserve the habitat of all kinds of plants and animals. Although these two biological sources can be renewed, their existence must be maintained so that they do not experience extinction. If we don’t contribute to environmental sustainability, then who else?

There are various efforts you can do in preserving the environment, especially on plants. Among them are carrying out reforestation or replanting, implementing a selective logging system, preventing forest fires, not littering and implementing a recycling system. Until now, there have been a lot of business actors who have implemented a recycling system which in the end gave birth to many success stories from those who implemented it.

If you are interested in becoming one of the people who want to preserve the environment and choose Ebony Wood as the source you want to cultivate. You need an inspirational intake that is certainly very related. One of them is a local Indonesian brand that carries the theme of wood as the main raw material in making a watch. MATOA unites the creativity of artisans in processing Ebony wood materials and offers full elegance, especially for you fashion lovers who want to look unique and different.

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