Kayu Malam


The Standard Malaysian Name, which is of Sabah origin, for the timber of Diospyros spp. (Ebenaceae). Vernacular names applied include buey (Peninsular Malaysia), kayu arang (Peninsular Malaysia), kumoi (Peninsular Malaysia), kumoi bukit (Peninsular Malaysia), meribut (Peninsular Malaysia), sabah ebony (Sabah), sianggus (Peninsular Malaysia) and tuba buah (Peninsular Malaysia). Major species include D. blancoi, D. buxifolia, D. clavigera, D. confertiflora, D. discocalyx, D. foxworthyi, D. maingayi, D. pendula and D. pillosanthera. The sapwood is not distinct from the heartwood, which is generally yellowish white to buff. Some species produce a streaky core while some others produce a jet black core, which is the ebone of commerce. 

Also known as Marblewood (India); Ebony, Kayu arang, Kayu eboni and Kayu hitam (Indonesia); Mai lang dam and Mai mak keua (Laos); Mepyaung and Trayung (Myanmar); Ata-ata, Bolong-eta, Camagon, Camogon, Kemagong and Malatinta (Philippines); and Kaling, Lambit, Maklua and Tako-na (Thailand).


The timber is moderately hard to very hard and moderately heavy to very heavy with a density of 595-1,055 kg/m3 air dry. It is classified under Medium Hardwood in Malaysia.


The lighter coloured material is non-durable, while the darker material is expected to be durable.


Texture is fine and even with straight to slightly interlocked grain.


The timber is reported to be easy to work and produces a very smooth and lustrous surface.


The heavier material is reputed to season slowly and is liable to check and warp.


Shrinkage is very high, especially in the streaky material. Radial shrinkage averages 4.7% while tangential shrinkage averages 8.7%.


The darker streaked corewood is highly prized as a superior cabinet wood, suitable for high class decorative furniture, panelling, mouldings, staircase (apron lining, balustrade and handrail) and other interior finishing. The heavier species of this timber are suitable for temporary medium construction, posts, tool handles (impact) and ornamental items. The lighter coloured material is suitable for furniture, plywood, pallets and other general utility purposes.


  1. Menon, P. K. B. 1986. Uses of Some Malaysian Timbers. Revised by Lim, S. C. Timber Trade Leaflet No. 31. The Malaysian Timber Industry Board and Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. 48 pp.
  2. Wong, T. M. 1982. A Dictionary of Malaysian Timbers. Revised by Lim, S. C. & Chung, R. C. K. Malayan Forest Records No. 30. Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. 201 pp.