By P Padmanabhan, India
A large tree, attaining a height of 60~ 1 00 feet with a girth of 8~ 12 feet.
Stem: smooth and straight; generally unbranched up to a considerable height, with a multi~branched canopy.
Leaves: trifoliate with petiole, leaflets glabrous.
Flowers: monoecious, small, creamy yellow or green, sweet~scent in large pubescent panicles. Fruits: ellipoidal, capsular, tricarpettary. Each capsule contains one seed.
Hevea brasiliensis is native to Brazil. It was introduced to south~east Asia in 1876 and is widespread throughout China, Indonesia, Java, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Sumatra. It is also grown in Africa. In India, Kerala is the most important rubber-producing state, with plantations varying in area from less than one acre to over three hectares.
Hevea brasiliensis is valued for the latex (rubber) obtained by "tapping" the latex vessels situated in the bark with a sharp incision on the main trunk. No other single species of plant has influenced life systems around the globe as much as has the rubber tree. In India, the prosperity of many small villages in Kerala can be largely attributed to rubber plantations producing latex and supporting the apiculture industry.
[Bees for Development Jounal #45]