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Exotic Wood of Southeast Asia
Planting Exotic Wood in Southeast Asia
About fifteen years ago just after we had started working internationally, we really began to notice how beaten-up old mother earth has become.
Europe and North American greenies huff and puff about a dropped handkerchief or candy wrapper whereas in a raft of countries where we were working, the massive and eponymous crud that lines every gutter and chokes every drain is at the epic end of the proportion scale and the smell of slow decay is everyday's universe.
Guilt leaped beyond mild conscience pricking to massive soul drop kicking, so we thought of getting some land as close to original forest cover as possible without going so far into the boonies that we could never see it. Just buy it, walk through it infrequently, put up threatening signs, and let nature take its course. This worked well near our place in a western country, but in much of Asia, that opportunity is virtually gone.
So our idea there was to buy some abused land, plant a mass of trees and see if we could help reduce erosion and mud slides. Easy to plant, but tough to keep as the demand for wood seems insatiable and often the poachers are protected by those in power. Still, we could try.
Know more about exotic hard wood - Top books on exotic trees
Hardly had we been taught anything about exotic trees when I studied as a little girl in Asia. I am only starting to educate myself now and I am amazed at how interesting these exotic trees are.
I remembered very well when my cousin working in a lumber company brought me samples of the various hard woods of Asia but at that time, it was not yet in my sphere of interest.
Pakenham's book is a must read. He unfolds for us the trees that have survived and grown to what we would call remarkable. He has fine quality pictures to show these trees which are worth seeing even just in pictures.
Planting Mahogany and Teak
Planting Mahogany and Teak
We did and started planting mahogany and teak, two of Southeast Asia's high demand hard wood. We could only visit every few years as the plot was remote and really inaccessible during rainy season. City people (us) really don't know what mud is like in Asian rains but it is the most glutinous substance I have ever found. Because we were hardly there, many of our trees "migrated" to our neighbor's land and only a few were left in our place.
But in many places in Southeast Asia, when you leave the land untouched, the jungle reclaims it in a few seasons and so we found a volunteer army of hard wood trees growing all over our place. They are of different variety as well and they are indigenous to the place which is better as they tend to "be migrated" less often. When we went there last, the devastated hillside we had bought was once more a surface saving forest holding onto moisture longer and becoming a bulwark agaist landslides. The satisfaction we felt was deep and it really cost almost nothing.
Stopping the destruction of the forests - Ability to do so
Are we doing enough right now to save our many exotic hard wood trees?
Yes, we are
Southeast Asia: Still Home to Luxury Hard Woods - High Demand for Exotic Asian HardWood
Poaching of hard wood
Although, Southeast Asia is still home to many varieties of luxury hard woods, it's hard to find the big guys anymore. In the few areas that haven't been savaged yet, despite draconian laws, exotic hard woods are poached in masses, at times, by those whose job it is to enforce the law! And the harder they are to find, the more expensive they have become. Prices have skyrocketed as the demand for exotic hard woods for furniture has exploded with the growth of the Asian middle class. Veneers are too expensive to create, so great heavy timbers are converted into intensely ugly largely unusable monoliths jamming rooms with the appurtenances of wealth.
Most of the forests have been pillaged so the importance of volunteers replanting some of these glorious hardwoods cannot be overstated. It takes at least 15 years before you can harvest a few but some friends in Southeast Asia have shown us the wooden furniture and trim in their homes coming from their own trees.
The Famous Narra Hardwood - One of Southeast's Asia's Top Hardwood
The Narra Tree
Narra is one of the most prized hard wood for fine furniture and homes. I remembered choosing the narra wood for our house years ago when narra was still plentiful in the Philippines where it is now vulnerable. It is considered threatened in Indonesia and almost extinct in others areas of Southeast Asia. Singapore has made it the centerpiece of its tree planting. It is called Angsana there as well as in Malaysia. In Indonesia, it is known as sonokembang and in Thailand, pradoo.
This picture was taken in the Old Quarter of Hanoi where these narra trees line the avenue by Hoan Kiem lake. Hanoi has really preserved most of the trees in the heart of the city so it has avenues lined with them. It makes the city green and charming.
Here's a good link on narra for those who are keen in knowing more about this valuable tree.
How well do you know Southeast Asia? - Here's a wonderful take on this place
This is a very interesting book. Oppenheimer gave us evidence of how this area has been flooded and buried. Its land area used to be twice than that of India but the flood that followed the Ice Age buried most of it. We don't want another flood to do this same thing today.
Get this book and get a vision of what will become to Southeast Asia if we don't stop denuding our forests.
Efforts at Forest Conservation
Spung Tree in the Angkor Temples - Ta Phrom Temple
Spung Trees in the Temples of Angkor
Some of the Spung Trees in the temples of Angkor in Cambodia are about 900 years old. What is interesting is that they grow up and down. It is said that the birds eat the fruits from the tree and drop some of the seeds on the temples. Some of these seeds get into places in the temples where the conditions make them grow. As they grow down, they also take over these temples as you can often see in the pictures of Angkor. While it is very artistic for photography, it is a problem for archaeology.
Forests Declared as National Parks - To Protect the Exotic Hard Wood
In some countries where these forests have been despoiled remaining ranges have been declared national parks to protect what's left. But the trees are still very young. It will take lifetimes before those towering mature monoliths of the forest are seen again. But earth is forever and planting now will be wondered at by humans in a thousand years. Check the great redwoods that remain, or a few oaks in the north, or even olive trees near deserts. Exotic they have been and exotic they will remain, if someone takes the trouble to plant and protect them. Here's the first of such parks in Cambodia.
Why are these hard wood so desired?
You can see in the pictures the beauty of some of these species that have lasted for centuries.
Old Wood Furniture - Preserved for Centuries
Hard Wood Furniture
Asians prize hard wood for furniture not only for its beauty but also for its durability. Old furniture made from hard wood are still strong today.
Beams in Old Houses - Hard Wood is Best
Hard Wood Furniture - Lasts for Many Years
Hard Wood now Farmed
Harvests Take Place in 15 Years
For those of us who really admire the beauty of hard wood, there is no cause for despair. Many of these trees are now farmed and after 15 years, harvests can already be had. How about you? Tucked in an acorn lately?
New studies are showing that over planting of trees can create its own problems and that thinning the forest may just be the answer to some of our problems of rain and flood.
I still remember the advice of the wise owner of one of the most successful lumber companies. He advised to enforce a forest line and let the forest renew itself. We found that in our last visit in the area where we planted, local varieties have grown and taken over that we could not even get through. We are happy to see this. Let the forest grow again.
The Beauty of Hard Wood Furniture - Tell us what you think
Do you think hard wood furniture are beautiful?
Owning Hard Wood Furniture - Let us know
Do you own hard wood furniture?
Solid Hard Wood or Veneer? - Which one do you prefer?
In furniture, do you prefer solid hard wood or veneer?
Solid hard wood
Rosewood Furniture of Burma - Aren't they exotic?
Most exotic wood in Southeast Asia are used in the past to build wooden homes. As presently this is no longer the taste of many Southeast Asians, most wood are really used to make beautiful hard wood furniture that are valued in most parts of the world. Southeast Asian rosewood, teak and mahogany are the favourites of furniture makers. Burma or Myanmar still has plenty of rosewood as it has been closed to international trade for some time. Nowadays, these trees are farmed in many countries but for many Southeast Asians, the wood of the older trees are most prized.