Dark red meranti (Shorea platyclados)
|Size||Trunk diameter: up to 172 cm (2)|
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).
Dipterocarpaceae trees dominate Southeast Asian tropical lowland rainforests (3), and are favourite timber trees because of their hard wood and tall, straight trunks that lack any lower branches (4). Of the dipterocarps, trees of the Shorea genus are considered the largest and most economically important (5). This species is one of several Shorea species that have been grouped into the subgenus Rubroshorea, commonly known as dark red meranti after the colour of their timber (6). This group is characterised by massive trees reaching heights of 200 ft, with straight, cylindrical boles and high buttresses (7). Shorea species spread out their crown of branches and leaves way above the canopy layer (4).
Native to Sumatra, Indonesia (1).
Found on deep, fertile soils in hilly and mountainous areas (1), with an optimum altitudinal range of between 750 and 1,050 m above sea level (2).
Very little has been recorded about the biology of this species, but there are certain characteristics that dipterocarps, and more specifically Shorea species, share. Dipterocarps within a region all flower at the same time once or twice a decade, flowering over several weeks and setting seed in unison. Unlike most dipterocarps, however, Shorea species have a unique pollinator, minute thrips which breed in the young flower buds and mature by the time the flowers open, which occurs at dusk. The thrips move from flower to flower to feed on the flower petals and pollen. Although this doesn’t pollinate the flowers, as the tree cannot self-pollinate, the propeller-shaped flower petals drop off by noon the next day laden with pollen-covered thrips. Since these enormous trees grow way above the canopy, the petals are carried off into the forest by the wind. As evening approaches and a new set of flowers open, the thrips fly up to feed on the new flowers, and thereby cross-pollinate with other trees. Dipterocarp trees grow very slowly, usually only flowering and fruiting after 60 years (4).
Dipterocarp forests have become amongst the most endangered in the world, widely logged for use in furniture-making, general construction and boat-building (7). Furthermore, the slow growth of these trees and late flowering mean that many trees are cut down before having a chance to reproduce (4).
Some subpopulations of this species are found in primary forest reserves, where they receive varying levels of protection (1). Furthermore, because of their high economic value, there have been efforts to replant dipterocarp forests, which may include species such as this dark red meranti (4).
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- Bole: The main stem of a tree; trunk.
- Buttress: The flared base of certain tree trunks.
- Thrips: various small to minute sucking insects of the order Thysanoptera, which have narrow feathery wings if any and can be quite destructive.
IUCN Red List (December, 2009)