Characteristics of Merawan Tree (Hopea odorata) in the Wild

Hopea odorata
Merawan or Cengal Kampung (Hopea odorata) is a species of tree in the Dipterocarpaceae family. This tree is found in tropical Southeast Asia.

Merawan trees grow in primary forests at altitudes between 0-600 m asl and prefer near rivers. In places such as West Bengal and the Andaman Islands, merawan trees are often planted as shade trees.

Merawan trees are valued for their strong and durable wood. There is a large demand for merawan wood for building construction (beams, boards, poles), shipbuilding, railroad sleepers, and furniture.

The merawan tree produces a resin from its bark which is known as “damar batu” in the trade. Rated as a second quality resin, and used traditionally for caulking boats and varnishes.

MERAWAN TREE MYTH

In Thailand this tree is believed to be inhabited by a certain tree spirit known as Lady Ta-khian (นางตะเคียน), belonging to a type of tree-related ghost commonly known as Nang Mai (นางไม้).

 

Hopea odorata is a threatened species in its natural habitat. The IUCN Redlist has assigned this species a Vulnerable (VU) status since 2017.

 

Characteristics of Merawan Leaf

Hopea odorata Leaf
Source: flickr.com/SierraSunrise

The leaves are alternate, oval to ovoid-lanceolate, measuring about 7-14 x 3-7 cm, both surfaces are bare, and the petiole is 1.5-2 cm long.

 

Characteristics of Merawan Flower

Hopea odorata Flower
Source: flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

The flowers are small, yellowish-white, smell good, and are located in the axils of the leaves or the ends of the branches.

 

Characteristics of Merawan Fruit

Hopea odorata Fruit
Source: flickr.com/Hai Le

The fruit is small, brown, and winged. The single seed is roughly egg-shaped with a pointed tip, covered in glossy resin, and measures about 6 x 5 mm. It has 2 wings 5.5 long and three short wings which promote the dispersal of seeds by the wind.

 

Characteristics of Merawan Tree

Hopea odorata Tree
Source: flickr.com/Cerlin Ng

Merawan tree can grow into a large tree up to 45 meters tall, straight trunk, and with branches evenly on the main trunk. This tree is commonly found in deep rich soils in lowland tropical forests at elevations up to 600 m asl. Usually grows near rivers and swamps.

Merawan trees grow best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are in the 26-36 °C range but can tolerate 10-41 °C. It prefers an average annual rainfall of 3,000-4,000 mm but tolerates 2,200-5,100 mm.

 

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