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Trees bees use - Rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis

by P Padmanabhan, India

Family

Euphorbiaceae

Description

A large tree, attaining height of 60-100 feet with girth of 8-12 feet.

Stem: smooth and straight; generally unbranched up to a considerable height, with multi-branched canopy.

Bark: greyish.

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.

Distribution

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.

Uses

Hevea brasiliensis is valued for the latex (rubber) obtained by “tapping” the latex vessels situated in the bark with 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.

Rubber wood that has been treated for protection from attack from fungi and insects can be used for construction of bee hives, as shown in experiments carried out at Kerala Forest Research Institute.

Apicultural value

Hevea brasiliensis is one of the most important nectar sources in the tropics. The young light green leaves secrete nectar from three extra floral nectaries situated at the joint of the petioles. This is collected in abundance by honeybees.