Teak (Tectona grandis)
A member of the mint family reaching heights of 150 feet, the striking teak tree is found throughout much of Southeast Asia. Beneath its scaly bark is a strong, dark gold wood that turns deep brown when exposed to air and sunlight. Teak is known for its ability to withstand the elements, as well as its resistance to decay and termites. Young trees have reddish leaves that turn green with maturity.
Teak is native to India, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. It grows best in fertile, well-drained soil and warm, tropical climates where it receives plenty of sunshine. The species depends on pollination by insects -- mainly bees -- for survival.
Although the tree itself can still be found widely, native teak forests in places such as India and Thailand have largely disappeared because of unsustainable logging. The demand for teak has far exceeded its natural supply, and plantations have been set up to grow teak throughout much of the tropics. Teak’s natural resistance to decay, wood rot and shipworm (a sea mollusk that easily bores itself into most woods) makes it an ideal material for building projects in coastal environments, especially bridges, docks and boats. Teak is also used in traditional Southeast Asian medicine for its astringent and diuretic properties, which assist in reducing swelling. It’s also used traditionally to treat diabetes, and laboratory tests have demonstrated that its bark extract effectively lowers insulin resistance in mice.
The Rainforest Alliance is working with community- and state-owned cooperatives to ensure the sustainable harvest of teak throughout many regions in Indonesia. One such cooperative: the community-based Koperasi Hutan Jaya Lestari (KHJL) in the Lambakara village of Sulawesi, Indonesia. KHJL has been certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program to the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards for responsible management and is working with over 560 local community members. The cooperative’s efforts are helping to relieve the pressure of illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture on nearby natural forests.
- Jukofsky, Diane. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002.
- De Kok, Rogier. "Tectona Grandis (teak)." Plants & Fungi. Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew. Web. http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Tectona-grandis.htm.
- ENVIS Centre on Forestry (India): http://www.frienvis.nic.in/teak.htm
- The Forest Trust (TFT): http://www.tft-forests.org/climate-tree/page.asp?p=6204