Ebony, a small family of mostly tropical, hard-wooded trees and shrubs. Ebony is also the common name of several trees in this family, as well as the name of the heartwood obtained from certain species. Trees of the ebony family are grown as ornamentals and for their fruit or wood. Depending on the species, they may be evergreen, bearing green leaves throughout the year, or deciduous, losing their leaves at the end of the growing season.
The species that produce ebony wood are found only in tropical climates. These trees can reach a height of 50 feet (15 m). Their bark is dark gray, and the heartwood, which is the only part that is used, is black. White flowers are borne on small branches. The young shoots of the plant are usually covered with soft hairs.
Ebony wood is fine-grained and easily polished. The finished wood is usually black with brown stripes. Ebony is most often used in making canes and various types of handles. The most important species furnishing ebony wood is the East Indian, or Macassar, ebony tree.
Trees cultivated as ornamentals or for their fruit include the American persimmon of the southern United States and the swamp ebony tree of western Africa.
The East Indian ebony tree is Diospyros ebenum; the American persimmon, D. virginiana; the swamp ebony tree, D. mespiliformis. All are members of the ebony family, Ebenaceae.