Dyera costulata
by Dr. Richard Chung Cheng Kong
Dyera costulata
by Dr. Richard Chung Cheng Kong

Jelutong is the common name for Dyera of the family Apocynaceae. It is a large deciduous forest tree attaining over 60 m tall in the wild, although shorter when planted at roadside or as park tree with a diameter at breast height of 250 cm. The crown of this tree normally rises up as dark compact domes over other trees. The trunk is big and straight to about 30 m up the first branch, shorter on park trees, and without buttress. Leaves are simple, arranged in whorls at top of the ultimate twigs. Jelutong tree is distributed in penisular Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra and Borneo. It grows in primary lowland on hill forest in well-drained soil up to 300 m altitude and usually occurring as scattered individuals.

Since 1922, it has been a source of coagulated latex used mainly in the manufacture of chewing gum as substitute for the chicle latex obtained from ciku or Manilkara zapota (L.) P.Royen. Classified as light hardwood, its sapwood and heartwood share almost similar colours. The heartwood is creamy white to pale straw colour. It has a moderately fine and even texture with mostly straight grain. The timber is weak and is easy to dry but must be carefully handled to avoid sap-staining. It is highly perishable, susceptible to fungal attacks as well as lyctus beetle and termite attacks. The timber is used for pencil manufacture, carving works, disposable chopsticks, tooth picks, picture frames, pattern making, drawing boards, black boards, toys, packing cases, and wooden shoe heels.

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