The Teak tree is a tropical hardwood
The Teak tree is a tropical hardwood that grows to a height between 150 and 160 feet with a trunk diameter of 6-8 feet. The tree is predominantly found in Thailand, Burma, and Java. Optimal growing conditions for the Teak tree include fertile soil, and an elevation below 600 meters. High quality Teak is produced with alluvial soil that is deep, flat, well drained and rich in calcium. A mean annual temperature of 22 to 27 degrees Celsius and annual rainfall of 1500 to 2500 millimeters are also important requirements to produce quality Teak. It is also essential that the Teak plantation receives 3 to 5 months of dry season because too much moisture will result in a sappy low quality wood. Negative characteristics such as lower average density, lesser quality color, poor texture, and a loss of strength are a result of too much precipitation.
At one time Thailand had 39,536,861 acres of Teak forests. The ancient kings of Burma and Thailand regarded the Teak as a royal tree and strictly regulated its harvest. These forests have now become almost non-existent. This problem has led to strict government regulation in most of the countries, which have the ability to produce Teak. The lone remaining natural Teak forest was in Burma but has been destroyed to fund their civil war. This has led to a drop in supply for Teak and a climb in prices.
The lumber itself is a tawny golden color with streaks of dark brown when harvested. The wood of the Teak tree is exceptionally hard, heavy, strong and oily. The natural oil in the wood makes it very durable and makes it unnecessary to treat the wood. The natural preservative makes the wood resistant to insects, fungus, marine borers, rot, and moisture damage. Teak has become the lumber of choice because of its ability to avoid rust and corrosion when in contact with metals. This trait makes the lumber very valuable to shipbuilders for expensive boats and yachts. The oil of the Teak also prevents the wood from warping, cracking or becoming brittle. It is also used for exterior decking, trim, windows, garden furniture, park benches, and various marine applications. Teak can also be used indoors for flooring and paneling in banks and office buildings. Teak lumber can even be found in the oil fields of the Middle East. This is because it is the only wood, which can survive the conditions of the desert without becoming dry and susceptible to conducting electrical sparks.
The popularity of Teak lumber has been steadily increasing over recent years. The supply, however, has not kept pace with the demand and this has led to global shortages of the tree. The North American Hardwood Association reported that there was a 625% percent increase in the price of Teak from 1986-1992. The plantation has certain advantages over the natural Teak forests because it is easier and more economical to harvest Teak from the plantation. Countries in Central America and Africa with suitable conditions have seen developments of Teak plantations rise in recent years to compensate for the shortage.