In Indonesia, where much of this lumber comes from, Teak is called Jati. Teak is a hardwood of the family Verbenaceae. No other wood compares to teak when it comes to durability, elegance, stability and low maintenance. Teak is known for being extremely weather resistant, able to withstand all types of weather conditions.
So, What Makes Teak Wood a Sustainable Material?
Nearly all natural teak wood products harvested for commercial use fall under varying levels of scrutiny for the responsible management of that resource, including its harvesting. Many teak growers follow accepted best-practices for the responsible production of the product while maintaining the resource at acceptable levels.
Teak is a deciduous tree, which grows in dry, hilly terrains of forests in Southeast Asia. Actually, the best hardwood teak comes from Indonesia. However, teak is not a timber found in tropical rain forests. In fact, teak cannot grow in rain forests. Most of the teak furniture sold around the world does not comes from natural forests, but instead from tree farms – teak plantations.
Teak is not a very fast-growing plant. When plantation grown, the tree will usually attain a height of 130 ft. to 150 ft. with a diameter of 3 to 5 ft. It will be ready for harvesting at around 50-60 years. If well maintained the tree can produce a clear stem of up to 100 ft in length giving a high timber yield. It produces a very large leaf similar to a tobacco leaf which is around 12″ long and wide.
Teak plantations in Indonesia are largely located in Java and currently exceed 1.725 million acres. Teak was introduced into Java in the fourteenth century, although some reports suggest that its introduction may have been as early as the seventh century. Harvests from Javanese teak plantations today support a rapidly expanding furniture manufacturing industry, the products of which are increasingly directed to export markets.
Production of teak occurs in two sectors: one sector is the free market and the other sector is a teak management and conservation division of the Indonesian government’s Forest and Field Department, called Perum Perhutani. While the practices of many free market producers is suspect, Perhutani’s teak production and processing activities are extensive, well organized, managed and controlled. This involves provision for planting stock, advanced growing methods, and specific advice to assist landholders with the establishment of responsible management practices for their teak plantations.
Perum Perhutani operates under a strict policy of regulating the number and size of trees which can be felled. They also closely manage the number of trees which are replanted so as to maintain the productivity of the teak forests for future generations. The teak plantations produce a high value crop that is a very valuable source of income in their local area. The associated furniture and timber products industry provides regular local employment to many thousands of people.
So, when managed properly, teak becomes a renewable natural resource that also serves the local economies where it is grown as valuable economic resource.