The Rubber Tree
plant species produce natural rubber. Considerations of quality and
economics, however, limit the source of natural rubber to one species,
namely Hevea brasiliensis. |
It is a native of the Amazon basin and introduced from there to countries in the tropical belts of Asia and Africa during late 19th century. It can be termed as the most far reaching and successful of introductions in plant history resulting in plantations over 9.3 million hectares, 95 per cent of it across the globe in Asia.
Hevea brasiliensis, also known as the Para rubber tree after the Brazilian port of Para, is a quick growing, fairly sturdy, perennial tree of a height of 25 to 30 metres. It has a straight trunk and thick, somewhat soft, light brownish gray bark. The young plant shows characteristic growth pattern of alternating period of rapid elongation and consolidated development. The leaves are trifoliate with long stalks. The tree is deciduous in habit and winters from December to February in India. Refoliation is quick and copious flowering follows. Flowers are small but appearing in large clusters. Fruits are three lobed, each holding three seeds, quite like castor seeds in appearance but much larger in size. The seeds are oil bearing.
The rubber tree may live for a hundred years or even more. But its economic life period in plantations, on general considerations is, only around 32 years – 7 years of immature phase and 25 years of productive phase.
Commercial cultivation of rubber in India was started in 1902.