How big can a teak tree get?
Of the more than 1100 tree species in northern Thailand, teak (Tectona grandis, Lamiaceae) has traditionally been considered the most valuable timber tree. Consequently it has been logged heavily and already during the early 1900′s there was a concern of losing this resource. The law then stated that nobody could log specimens smaller than 2.13 meters in girth (the circumference at breast height). Such a teak has an estimated age of 150 years. If that was the smallest tree allowed, how big was a big one? Most teaks we see today are babies, often not much older than the time of the logging ban since 1989.
There are stumps of teak trees which are ca 2 meters in diameter, and the age is estimated at around 300 years.
The most exciting rumour is that in Uttaradit province there is a huge teak specimen, a giant from the old times, with an estimated age of 1000 years. If any of our readers know where this specimen is located, or any other giant teak, I should be happy to arrange for a Dokmai Garden excursion to go and see it. Even if its age is likely to be younger than 1000 years, I am sure it would be a magnificent sight!
A leaf and fruit of Dipterocarpus tuberculatus (left) and a leaf and fruit of teak (right). These two native species are often confused with each other. Both species grow at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell