Rubber Tree, Rubber Tree
The Par Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis), is a tree belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is the most economically important member of the genus Hevea. It is of major economic importance because its sap-like extract (latex) can be collected and is the primary source of natural rubber. The ParÃ¡ rubber tree initially grew only in the Amazon Rainforest. Now most rubber tree plantations are in southeast Asia and tropical Africa. Attempts to cultivate the tree in other areas in South America were unsatisfactory.
The tree can reach a height of over 98 feet. The white or yellow latex occurs in latex vessels in the bark, mostly outside the phloem. These vessels spiral up the tree in a right-handed spiral which forms an angle of about 30 degrees with the horizontal. Once the trees are 5-6 years old, they can be harvested for their latex. Incisions are made orthogonal to the latex vessels, just deep enough to tap the vessels without harming the tree’s growth, and the sap is collected in small buckets. This process is known as rubber tapping. Older trees yield more latex, but they stop producing after 26-30 years.
The wood from this tree, referred to as parawood or rubberwood, is used in the manufacture of high-end furniture. It is valued for its dense grain, minimal shrinkage, attractive color and acceptance of different finishes. It is also prized as an “environmentally friendly” wood, as it makes use of trees that have been cut down at the end of their latex-producing cycle.