Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers

What About Teak? (page 2 of 7)

by Yuri Bihun

Where Teak Grows


Where Teak Grows
On Java, young teak plantations are interplanted with corn.

The scientific name for teak is Tectona grandis. The generic name is derived from the original Malaysian name for the tree, tekku, and the species name, grandis, great or large, refers to its oversized leaves that are 10- to 20 inches long and 7- to 14 inches wide: among the largest leaves of any tree. The long, oblong-shaped leaves are so rough that natives routinely used them as an abrasive, like sandpaper. A deciduous tree in the Verbenaceae family (many gardeners are familiar with the herbaceous species, vervain, in the same family), teak grows in tropical climates and prefers a long, dry season and sweet, limestone soils.

Teak occurs naturally in India, Burma, Java, and throughout Southeast Asia. It is planted extensively throughout the region and has been introduced throughout the tropical world with plantations established in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. In its natural habitat, old-growth teak is a magnificent tree. Normally, teak attains a height of 70- to 100 feet, but on favorable sites it reaches heights of 130- to 150 feet, rising to the canopy branchless for the first 80 feet or so. Trunk diameters are usually 3- to 5 feet, but because the base is fluted and buttressed, older trees can be as much as 6- to 8 feet in diameter with some logs weighing over 12 tons. Generally, teak does not grow in pure stands. It is scattered through the tropical forest, often with a dense understory of bamboo.

Myamaar--until recently known as Burma--has the largest reserves of teak forest in the world. The highest quality teak in the world, Myamaar's forests are under extreme environmental pressure with a relentless threat of large-scale deforestation and site degradation because of political instability. Much of the Myamaar teak wood is cut illegally and sometimes smuggled out as "dunnage" or decking on cargo ships that is subsequently ripped up and resawn as premium lumber.

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