Moluccan ironwood (Intsia bijuga)

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Moluccan ironwood in flower
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Moluccan ironwood fact file

Moluccan ironwood description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderFabales
FamilyLeguminosae
GenusIntsia (1)

A highly-valued commercial tree, the Moluccan hardwood is intensively harvested for its timber, as it is one of the most decay-resistant woods known (3) (4). This large, deciduous tree is also known for its distinctive crown of outward stretching branches and steep, rounded buttresses, which on fully grown trees can exceed four metres in height (2) (5). The white to pink-red flowers are arranged into a dense inflorescence and numerous broad, tear-shaped, shiny, light green leaves extend from each stem in a feather-like structure (4) (5). The fruit of the Moluccan hardwood is a pear- or oblong-shaped, thick, rigid pod that measures up to 10 centimetres in length and usually contains one to nine dull brown, large, flattened seeds (4) (5).

Also known as
Borneo teak, ipil.
Synonyms
Afzelia bijuga, Afzelia cambodiensis, Afzelia retusa, Intsia amboiensis, Intsia cambodiensis, Intsia madagascariensis, Intsia retusa, Jonesia triandra, Macrolobium bijugum, Outea bijuga, Pahudia hasskarliana.
Size
Height: 30 – 50 metres (2)
Trunk diameter: 1.5 – 2.0 metres (2)
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Moluccan ironwood biology

The Moluccan ironwood is a slow growing, deciduous tree that despite initial rapid growth takes up to 80 years to mature (4). It sheds its leaves annually and remains bare for a few days afterwards. It is a monoecious species meaning that each plant has both male and female flowers. The flowers emit a strong scent and insects, such as bees, birds and the wind are all considered to be major pollinators (4) (5).  The Moluccan ironwood fruits all-year round (5).

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Moluccan ironwood range

The Moluccan ironwood is found in South and Southeast Asia, from India through to Indonesia, as well as in Papa New Guinea, the Philippines, Australia and numerous Pacific and Indian Ocean islands, including American Samao, Madagascar and the Chagos Islands (1) (3) (6).

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Moluccan ironwood habitat

The Moluccan ironwood inhabits lowland tropical rainforests and is usually found around sea level, often in a zone behind mangrove forests and areas bordering swamps, rivers and floodplains (1) (2) (3). It is also found on sand and coral beaches, as well as inland areas, and will grow in both primary and secondary forests up to 600 metres above sea level (3) (5).

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Moluccan ironwood status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Moluccan ironwood threats

The Moluccan ironwood has a long history of exploitation for its valuable, strong, attractive wood, which has a variety of uses in construction, and for its bark and leaves which are used in traditional medicines (3). However, it has been so heavily harvested that today few dense, natural stands of the species remain (1) (6). It is now almost extinct in Sabah, Malaysia, and is uncommon on Peninsular Malaysia, and rarely reaches commercial size there, although it is more common in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (1) (3) (6). There have also been few efforts to develop commercial plantations, meaning the demand for the species’ timber can only be met by removing trees from the wild (1) (6).  

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Moluccan ironwood conservation

While there are no known conservation measures in place for the Moluccan ironwood, permission is required to harvest it in the Philippines. It is also found in a number of protected reserves across its range, including the Ujung Kulong National Park in Java, Indonesia (3). The Moluccan ironwood is easily grown from seeds, saplings or stump cuttings, thereby providing the potential for it to be grown in commercial plantations, which would decrease the harvesting pressure on wild trees (4).

ARKive is supported by OTEP, a joint programme of funding from the UK FCO and DFID which provides support to address priority environmental issues in the Overseas Territories, and Defra
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Find out more

For more information on tree conservation, see:

To find out more about conservation on the Chagos Islands, see:

  • Procter, D. and Fleming, L.V. (1999) Biodiversity: the UK Overseas Territories. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, UK.
  • Sheppard, C. and Spalding, M. (2003) Chagos Conservation Management Plan. British Indian Ocean Territory Administration, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London.
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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Buttress
The flared base of certain tree trunks.
Inflorescence
The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
Monoecious
An organism in which separate male and female organs occur on the same individual.
Pollinators
Animals that in the act of visiting a plant’s flowers transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Ecocrop (August, 2010)
    http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/cropView?id=1263
  3. UNEP-WCMC Tree Conservation Information Service (August, 2010)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/trees/trade/int_bij.htm
  4. Agroforestry.net Species Profiles (August, 2010)
    http://www.agroforestry.net/tti/Intsia-vesi.pdf
  5. Agroforestry Tree Database (August, 2010)
    http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/sea/Products/AFDbases/AF/asp/SpeciesInfo.asp?SpID=17930
  6. Oldfield, S., Lusty, C. and MacKinven, A. (1998) The World List of Threatened Trees. World Conservation Press, Cambridge, UK.
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Image credit

Moluccan ironwood in flower  
Moluccan ironwood in flower

© Jean Yong

John Yong
jwhyong@gmail.com

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