Where seen? Rubber trees are commonly seen in many of our
wild places. These are often abandoned rubber plantations, although
some may have grown wild from dispersed seeds. You can tell they are
rubber trees as they are often the same size and planted in rows,
although the regenerating forest around them may obscure this. Our
rubber trees originally came from the Amazon in Brazil. Their introduction
and mass cultivation in Malaya is attributed to Sir Henry Nicholas
Ridley aka 'Mad Ridley' while he was Director of the Singapore Botanic
The latex of these trees supported vast industries for some time until
synthetic rubber was invented. The history of rubber is long and colourful,
involving purported bio-piracy, long periods of scientific experiments
and no doubt plenty of intrigues. The first rubber tree was successfully
transplanted in Singapore Botanic Gardens in 1877, from seedlings
taken from Brazil to the Kew Gardens in the UK. The tree is originally
called the Para rubber tree. There are 12 species in Brazil, only
H. brasiliensis was widely introduced to Malaya.
Features: Tall tree (to 20m).
Compound leaf thin, made up of three leaflets, arranged in a spiral.
These wither brown, red or yellow after a dry season. Young leaves
are purple bronze. Small white or pale flowers in a spray, said to
be fragrant. They are insect pollinated. Fruit a capsule made up of
three lobes, each with one large seed. The capsule explodes when ripe
and can send the seeds shooting out a long distance. Don't keep unripe
capsules at home as they may eventually explode and the whizzing seeds
may hurt people and damage your stuff.
Apparently wild boar love to eat rubber seeds, well at least the tame
wild boar at the Ubin Orchid Farm, according to the Ubin
Human uses: Burkill has a long account of the history of
the tree, how wild trees were tapped in the Amazon, its introduction
to cultivation in Malaya and the experiments done to test the different
ways to tap the tree. The oily seeds are fed to livestock and eaten
by people in some places but only after special preparation. Eating
too much and ill-prepared seeds can make you ill. The wood of old
rubber trees are sometimes made into charcoal.
Heritage Trees: There are two
rubber trees with Heritage
Tree status: One is at Japanese Cemetery Park, Chuan Hoe Avenue
89 and another at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, behind the Green
to the path to Chek Jawa.
Pulau Ubin, Oct 09
Pulau Ubin, Dec 09
Pulau Ubin, Oct 09
- Hsuan Keng,
S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The
Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons.
Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
E. J. H., 1997. Wayside
Trees of Malaya: in two volumes.
Fourth edition, Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1:
1-476 pp, plates 1-38; volume 2: 477-861 pp., plates 139-236.
I. H., 1993. A
Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula.
3rd printing. Publication Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia,
Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-1240; volume 2: 1241-2444.