The Rubber Tree

Rubber Tree
From the family of Euphorbiaceae is the most common source of commercial rubber. The latex is collected and is the main ingredient in making natural rubber. In contrast synthetic rubber is made from polymers.

Originally, rubber trees grew only in the Amazon region of South America -rubber trees can grow up to 30 meters high. When vulcanization was discovered in 1839, demand for rubber increased. Rubber tree seedlings were exported from Brazil to India in 1873 by the British to propagate the tree but the rubber tree seedlings did not survive. But future attempts to export the rubber tree seedlings to Ceylon, Singapore, Malaya (now Malaysia) were successful and today, most of the rubber tree plantations are in Southeast Asia, Central America and Africa.

Harvesting of rubber latex:
Rubber trees that are 5 years old or more produce a whitish or yellowish latex that can be harvested by cutting into the bark with a herringbone pattern, deep enough to reach the latex vessels but before the phloem -the hard wood. The older the rubber tree gets, the more latex is produced.

Processing of the latex:
After collecting the latex into small containers, the latex is heated and smoked by burning wood, stirred and then acid or alkali is added to coagulate or thicken the latex, then it is pressed to remove water. The resultant flat “cakes” are hung to dry. After drying, it is ready to be shipped to factories and made into various types of rubber products.