Scientific name: Koompassia excelsa
Family name: Fabaceae(Leguminosae)
Tualang trees in Taman Tugu
The Tualang is an indigenous rainforest tree that are amongst the 4,100 trees added to the Taman Tugu site, selected in collaboration with Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (“FRIM”) and Malaysian Nature Society (“MNS”). It was added to the site to cultivate biodiversity as the Tualang often attracts fauna such as honey bees and its leaves are eaten by Trachypithecus obscurus (Dusky Leaf Monkey) during the dry season.
The Tualang is a leguminous emergent forest tree, one of the tallest tropical tree species, measuring up to 80-90m height. Its crown is dome-like or mushroom-like, with delicate bright to pale green foliage and gnarled branching. It has huge trunk (up to 2m across), columnar, with smooth greyish bark, branching at only around 30m from ground, supported by large root buttresses at base. The leaves are light green, pinnately-compound with small alternate leaflets and terminal leaflet. Its flowers are very small, 5 petals, clustered in terminal panicles. The flowers are produced at 5-6 year intervals, after formation of new leaves subsequent to shedding of old ones. The fruits are thin flat papery pods, twisted near base, with broad wing around margin, ripening to brown, non-dehiscent, containing 1 flat seed.
The Malay name Tualang means ‘tree of swarming bees’ as it a host tree for Apis dorsata (Giant Asian Honey Bee), which hangs its large parabolic combs from the tree’s horizontal branches and its honey is harvested by the local people.
The Tualang is not a traditional commercial hardwood as its high-silica timber makes it not only very hard and difficult to cut but it is also brittle and splinters easily when sawn.
The tree is also indirectly protected from logging by its association with honey, which is worth more than the timber itself.
Unfortunately, due to decline of other hardwood timber species, these trees have been harvested more frequently in recent times for its timber, sold as Mangaris wood, and can be used for tool handles, railway sleepers and flooring. The buttress wood is said to be good for dining tables.
Tualang trees occur in the lowland primary rainforest, mainly at moist locations along rivers, in valleys and lower slopes of hills, restricted to north of Selangor and Pahang (Kuala Lumpur-Kuantan latitude) in Peninsular Malaysia. These trees are native to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.