Sandarac - tetraclinis articulata

The Sandarac tree (species: Tetraclinis articulata) is a small to medium size evergreen tree native to the western Mediterranean with a notable presence in the Atlas mountains of Morocco. It is the national tree of Malta. The leaves of the Sandarac are scale like and similar to those of the Thuja although the two are not related. The Sandarac is the only tree in it´s genus (tetraclinis).

The Sandarac "cones" are small green ball like in shape and measure less than one centemeter across. When they mature they turn brown and open with four petal like sides.

From a distance this tree species can look a lot like a pine tree but when examined up close it is easily distinguished apart by its thin scale like leaves that do not grow as needles but rather branch out from one another as in the image below.

There are several commercial uses for the Sandrac. The Arabs are said to have used the resin from this tree as a incense. Today it is the source of a resin that is also called Sandarac that is used to make varnish. Sandarac gum resin can be purchased on Ebay. In the Atlas mountains this tree is cut down in search of burr wood for wood carving. Often this is done by repeatedy cuting the tree back every number of years for coppice regrowth. One problem with this, however is that the presence of livestock feeding on the coppice regrowth can kill the tree altogether. It is also used to make liquor.

The image below is a 19th century illustration by Koehler in his work Medicinal Plants 1887. This image is now in the public domain.


  1. Thank you SO much! I recently had a school report on different plants and trees and your blog has really helped me out as far as trees are concerned!

  2. thanks, really helped