Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Tao Te King to Telegraphy >> Teak

Teak

trees, tree, forests, wood, float and burmese

TEAK, a large, verbenaceous forest tree (Tectona grandis), native to southern Asia and to the Malayan Islands, which furnishes the val uable lumber known as teak. The heartwood is golden-brown when first cut, but when aged darkens to the tint of black walnut. It is very durable, examples in house-timbers having al ready survived for hundreds of years, is straight in grain and easily worked. It takes a high polish and if properly seasoned will not warp or split. Teak is used for house-building, fur niture and wood-carving and is one of the most valuable woods for shipbuilding, espe cially for decking and for backing the metal 'plates of iron-clads, since it contains a resinous oil, which prevents it from corroding iron; it is also in demand for car-wheels, gun-carriages, railway ties and engineering works. Although the natural supply of teak, throughout its range was great, as it occurred in mixed forests, most luxuriantly in Burma and adjacent regions, it was rapidly disappearing on account of the unceasing demand and lack of replanting. Great Britain has checked this waste by efficient pro tection and forest-administration in its Indian and Burmese dominions. The timber is mostly consumed in India. The tree is not usually found in pure forests, but mixed with bamboo, which it overtops and which seems necessary for its growth. It requires a light soil with good sub-drainage. The leaves, which are nearly 10 inches long and resemble those of the to bacco, are somewhat drooping and coriaceous and appear as soon as the rainy season opens. They yield a red dye. Teak trees may easily be distinguished for some time during the rains, by their broad terminal panicles of flowers, which are small, white and fragrant, on slender branchlets. The seeds are oily, in a hard nut covered with a felt of matted hairs and further enclosed in an enlarged membranous calyx. These feathery panicles render the tree again conspicuous during the dry season, when it is leafless. The seeds are plentiful and would soon restore the forests, were it not for the forest-fires, raging just about the time when the nuts are falling. Many of the seeds. how

ever, are washed down by the first heavy rains of the monsoon, into the valleys, where the trees are principally .found. Although many logs of teak have cracks or hollows running up through the centre from the hutt, that are probably caused by the fires, the market value of the teak, which is greater than that of any other wood except mahogany, depends upon the regular cylindrical shape of the log. This should be without knots or other irregularities and great care is taken in the plantations to rid the trees of creepers which, by their cling ing habit, distort the trunks. Teak trees may reach a height of from 100 to 150 feet and a circumference of from 20 to 25 feet ; to attain the latter girth, a -tree grown under natural conditions must have lived at least 100 years. lit the plantations growth is quicker. To get these great logs out of the Burmese forests to the coast it is necessary to raft them down the rivers, but, since green tealc will not float and if felled to dry on the ground, the result is uneven seasoning and the lumber still does not float readily, the old Burmese method of drying the. wood when standing. is still the best available. This is done by girding, a broad annual strip of bark and sapwood is taken off, completely encircling the trunk and the cuts striking down quite into the heart wood. The supply of sap of the upper portion of tbe trees is of course entirely cut off and the tree dies above the girdle. It stands in that con dition for two or three years, according to its size, seasoning evenly and completely, being exposed to the weather on all si&s. The will then float easily and are sent down IT water-ways, sometirnes one by one, until they reach a river large enough for them to be formed into a raft. When they reach the lum ber yards, elephants are often employed to move the teak about and stack up the logs.