Eastern dammar (Agathis dammara)

Also known as: Agathis gunung, Celebes kauri, Indonesian kauri
GenusAgathis (1)
SizeHeight: 45 - 70 m (2) (3)
Trunk diameter: 1.8 - 6 m (2)

The eastern dammar is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The eastern dammar (Agathis dammara) is a member of the genus Agathis, also known as the kauri trees, a term which is derived from the Maori name for these species. A tall evergreen tree, the eastern dammar has been of great importance to humans both for its wood and for its resin (3) (4).

The bark of the eastern dammar is smooth, thick and reddish-grey, and is marked with resin blisters. The narrow leaves are dark green and leathery, usually measuring four to eight centimetres long and about three centimetres wide (2) (3) (5). The female cone is globular, while the male cone is a dark brown cylinder (5). Species in the genus Agathis differ from related species in the genus Araucaria in having winged seeds (4).

The eastern dammar has been the subject of much taxonomic confusion, and has often been confused with Agathis borneensis from which it differs mainly in its more slender male cones and fatter female cones (1) (3). Two subspecies have been identified as Agathis dammara flavenscens (mountain dammar), differing from Agathis dammara dammara (lowland dammar) in various features of its leaves and cones (3) (5).

The eastern dammar is native to tropical Southeast Asia. It can be found in Indonesia and across the islands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes and Moloccas (1) (2) (3).

The eastern dammar occurs in a range of forest types, from lowland rainforest to montane forests, up to elevations of over 2,000 metres (3).

Little is known about the biology of the eastern dammar, but it is likely to be similar to other Agathis species, for example, in the related Agathis australis, pollination occurs in October, with the winged seeds not maturing until February or March just under two years later (6).

The eastern dammar has an extensive history of use for both the resin it exudes and its wood (1) (3) (4). Its resin, known as dammar, was formerly very important in varnish, linoleum and traditional medicine. Even now, the bark is still burnt to repel mosquitoes and the dammar is used to glaze paper labels and glossy photographic prints (4). Commercial exploitation of the eastern dammar for its resin by wounding its bark can damage the trees over time (3).

The eastern dammar is also valuable for its timber, which is used as general-purpose softwood (4). Large numbers of this tree have been extracted, particularly in Kalimantan. This exploitation is continuing, and regeneration of the eastern dammar is insufficient to replace the felled populations (1) (7).

As with all species of Agathis, it is illegal to fell the eastern dammar in the Philippines. Plantations of this species have been established across its range, although these may not replace the losses of wild trees due to overexploitation (1) (3) (4) (7).

More information on the eastern dammar:

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. Silba, J. (1986) An International Census of the Coniferae. Phytologia Memoir VIII. Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L. Moldenke, Oregon, USA.
  3. Eckenwalder, J.E. (2009) Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  4. Mabberley, D.J. (2002) The Coming of the Kauris. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 19(4): 252-264.
  5. Whitmore, T.C. (1980) A monograph of Agathis. Plant Systematics and Evolution, 135(1-2): 41-69.
  6. Owens, J.N., Catalano, G.L. and Aitken-Christie, J. (1997) The reproductive biology of the kauri (Agathis australis). IV. Late embryology, histochemistry, cone and seed morphology. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 158(4): 395-407.
  7. Oldfield, S., Lusty, C. and MacKinven, A. (1998). The World List of Threatened Trees. World Conservation Press, Cambridge.