Although tourists and the visitors are a large part of the economic means of the survival of our tropical island, it also has another well known resource. Phuket Island has many rubber trees, or rubber plantations.
The first rubber tree was believed to be introduced to Phuket Island, Thailand in 1901; however the exact date isn’t certain.
The rubber tree can grow up to 30 meters and grows best in a warm tropical environment.
The trees are harvested for their latex each year, but by the time they get to around 30 years old, latex yields decrease to the point that it’s not commercially viable to tap the tree any more.
In the past when the rubber tree reached this stage, it would be felled and burned on the spot or chopped up for firewood to make way for a new tree – but the wood is now being used extensively in furniture, flooring, construction and even toys. Given their large size, a single tree can provide a great deal of timber.
Rubberwood is strong, flexible, and resistant to fungus, bacteria and mold. It’s compatible with most industrial adhesives, easy to work with and has a beautiful grain suitable for quality furniture.
The wood is a pale cream to yellowish brown color and is easy to stain to gain deeper colors. The finish adaptability is rated at 94% of that of teak under standard conditions and comparable to beech for workability.
While the clearing of rainforests to date to make way for rubber plantations is very regrettable, it’s great to see that rubber trees are now being used for more than just their sap and firewood – it’s an incredibly versatile tree and given there’s no shortage of supply, there’s great economic potential for the countries involved in the rubber industry.
So next time you’re out shopping and you see rubberwood furniture or products, don’t let the name of put you off; it’s an eco-friendly, sustainable and high quality wood!