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Intsia bijuga

Intsia bijuga

Eurosiden I
Order : Fabales (Fabales)
Family : Legumes (Fabaceae)
Subfamily : Carob family (Caesalpinioideae)
Tribe : Detarieae
Genre : Merbau
Scientific name

Merbau ( Intsia ) is a genus of plants in the subfamily of the carob family ( Caesalpinioideae ) within the legume family ( Fabaceae ). The very hard and smooth Merbau ( Intsia spp., Also Kwila or Borneo Teak ) is one of the most valuable, long-lived and most profitable types of tropical wood , whose natural resources are exhausted in most countries.


The genus Intsia , closely related to the genus Afzelia (Doussié), which is widespread in Africa , includes tree species that occur in hot and humid climates in Southeast Asia , the Pacific and Madagascar . Annual dry seasons are tolerated. Typical locations are coastal rainforests with 1500 to 2300 mm of precipitation bordering mangrove swamps , rivers and flood plains, inland at heights of up to 600 m, especially on limestone soils and even on limestone rocks. As a result of intensive deforestation, in many countries only a few trees are left in the natural locations; Intsia wood disappeared as an economic asset in these countries as early as 1980 . Larger natural occurrences only exist in inaccessible rainforests of western New Guinea .

The genus Intsia includes only a few species that differ little. The most common species are Intsia bijuga and Intsia palembanica . Merbau is the trade name, Kwila is the name in Papua New Guinea . In Fiji , the tree is known as Vesi . Intsia bijuga is classified as endangered in the international red list .


The spreading, mostly evergreen trees with a broad base reach heights of up to 50 meters. A height of 7 to 25 meters and a diameter of 0.8 to 1.50 m are typical. The trunks are mostly free of knots up to 15 m. Often there are high-reaching roots ( buttocks ) or butt roots .

The leaves are pinnate in pairs and alternate with only a few leaflets . The fragrant, stalked flowers are hermaphroditic with a double flower envelope. They stand together in racemose to panicle inflorescences. The flower stalks are at a "joint" on the lower part of the stem (Floriferis, Peduncle). A cup-shaped hypanthium is formed. There is only one large, nailed and white, pink to reddish petal and four green, large sepals. Long, fertile stamens and staminodes are present. The mid- to upper permanent ovary is stalked, gynophor . Long legumes with a few flat seeds are formed.

The growth rate is low after initially rapid growth. The forestry harvest age ( rotation time ) is 50 to 60 years, which is a very long time for tropical wood. The forestry effectiveness is therefore questionable. The trees are fully grown at the age of 70–80.

The red-brown wood of the Merbau species, mostly the species Intsia palembanica or Intsia bijuga , is similar in structure, properties and color to the wood of the genus Afzelia with very hard and smooth surfaces. The bulk density (at 12% moisture content) is approx. 0.8 g / cm 3 . It is significantly stronger than teak , harder than oak ( Brinell hardness 4–5 kp / mm²), has very good stamina, low shrinkage and, like Afzelia and teak, does not require any protection against insect or fungal attack. According to DIN 4076 Part 1, it has durability class 1–2 (good to very good). The DIN abbreviation is MEB. The color darkens slightly when exposed to light. It is one of the most valuable woods in Southeast Asia .


Traditionally used for building houses, Merbau wood gained great commercial importance. In recent years it has been used increasingly for doors, facades and parquet floors , but also for stairs, furniture, heavy-duty tables, musical instruments, veneers , handrails and as construction wood for special requirements. In the Philippines it is the standard against which the durability of other woods is compared.

In Germany, Merbau is mainly used for the manufacture of wooden floors . The special hardness also makes it suitable for public and commercial buildings. It can be laid on heating screed and in the bathroom. Merbau is part of the standard offer in the parquet trade and is also offered as a wood imitation ( laminate ).

Merbau was popular for the manufacture of railway sleepers. It was used to build bridges or to erect electricity pylons.

Despite the biodiversity of the tropical rainforest, only a few types of wood are suitable for making durable objects, such as B. large war canoes, which can be passed on from generation to generation and serve the cultural tradition in non-scripted cultures like in New Guinea. Objects from Merbau survive several human generations in the hot, humid tropical climate. In the South Pacific, the hulls, masts and rudders were made from Merbau when making canoes suitable for the sea . In the Solomon Islands , it was recommended as one of four tree species in a nationwide program for cattle fencing. Walking sticks and carvings are made from the wood. Clubs used as weapons are also known.

A brown ink is obtained from an oily component of wood and bark. The oil from the seeds is an insect repellent comparable to neem oil . The bark is used for healing purposes against rheumatism and diarrhea. After giving birth, mothers are given an infusion of the bark. Bark juice is given in Fiji for colds, flu and bone pain. Toothache is treated when mixed with other vegetable juices.

The tree improves the soil. It prevents erosion (especially in bays and waterways in mangrove forests and soil erosion in ravines), binds nitrogen to the roots, raises the pH value by fetching calcium from deeper soil layers and is also used for water purification. Merbau serves on the one hand as a shade provider, on the other hand as a windbreak. It's a pretty park tree, but can also protect swampy, chalky coasts. Not only bees use the pollen. It also plays a role in the life cycle of one of the largest butterflies on earth, the Queen Alexandra bird butterfly ( Ornithoptera alexandrae ).

The large, showy and long-lived tree is suitable as a boundary marker.

The tree used to be sacred in Fiji. Main masts of temples, sacred canoes and gongs were made of Merbau. Hardness and apparent indestructibility embodied admired human qualities. The idioms with the word vesi that are still in use today refer to people of special birth or with a strong character ( "kaukauwa vaka na vuni vesi" - strong like the Vesi tree). The bowl for serving the valued traditional yagona drink on festive occasions is therefore made from Merbau.

Illegal trafficking

Merbau parquet with an alleged FSC seal from a German hardware store

Most of the internationally traded merbau comes from illegal logging in West Papua , Indonesia. There is practically no Merbau with FSC certification. The largest companies in the parquet wood market are involved in trading: the German Tarkett , Goodfellow (Canada), Kahrs (Sweden), Armstrong World Industries (USA) and Junckers (Denmark). With the help of the Indonesian military , the last intact tropical rainforest in Asia is being destroyed. The main customer countries are China and Japan. For the 2008 Olympic Games , China introduced around 300,000 m³ of Merbau.

The Papuan tribes who own the forests receive - if at all - a maximum of US $ 11 per cubic meter of wood. When leaving Western New Guinea the price is already $ 120. In China, the processed wood is then sold for $ 468. In England or the USA, 26 m² of parquet (made from 1 cubic meter of wood) costs $ 2,288. 300,000 m³ of merbau are exported from the forests of West Papua every month. Papua New Guinea's export in 2004 was only 11,000 m³, less than the EU's consumption.

According to the first eia report from 2005, Stemming the Tide , the Indonesian police and military confiscated 400,000 m³ of illegal timber. Then the Chinese Merbau supply, which was supposed to come from Malaysia, collapsed. The huge international profit margin and the customary right of the Indonesian military to earn additional income do not allow illegal logging to come to a standstill, as the penalties are low. Since 2003, foreign journalists have also been banned from entering West Papua.

The timber transports observed between 2002 and 2005 came from the districts of Sorong, Manokwari , Fak Fak, Nabire and Serui. The habitat of the traditional indigenous peoples of West Papua, such as the Dani and Asmat, is being destroyed . Even the extremely remote Fayu no longer feel safe.

Indonesia has been negotiating with other Asian countries since the beginning of 2006 with the aim of putting Merbau under the protection of the Washington Convention on Species Protection (CITES Appendix III). Trade in whole logs, sawn timber and veneers would then be restricted. A study on consumption in the European Union was presented in 2006. The Netherlands had already proposed in 1991 that the Intsia species should be placed under CITES protection (Appendix II). Malaysia and other states prevented this from happening.

See also


  • The CABI Encyclopedia of Forest Trees. CABI, 2013, ISBN 978-1-78064-236-9 , p. 239 ff ( Intsia bijuga and Intsia palembanica ).

Web links

Commons : Merbau ( Intsia )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Intsia bijuga in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species .
  2. z. B. for the Slit Gong , an idiophone
  3. Christin Kocher Schmid: Merbau - a very special resource in New Guinea. Logging in New Guinea's forests often destroys resources created by indigenous forest management. Holz-Zentralblatt 2006, Vol. 132 (17) p. 493, ISSN  0018-3792 .
  4. ^ Wadley, Shah, Lawson 2006
  5. Russ Baker: The Deforesting of Irian Jaya ( Memento of October 7, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) In: The Nation magazin, February 7, 1994, in English, accessed on May 11, 2015.
  6. EIA, Telapak: Stemming the Tide: Halting The Regional Trade in Stolen Timber in Asia. ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF) November 2005. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. EIA, Telapak: The Last Frontier. Illegal Logging in Papua and China's Massive Timber Theft. ( Memento of the original from September 20, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF) February 2005. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. Greenpeace: Government of Indonesia checks timber companies ( Memento of the original from September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. April 24, 2006. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Traffic International: Review of trade in merbau (Intsia spp.) From major range States to Germany and the EU. ( Memento of the original from December 25, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF) Malaysia 2006. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Cites: Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties , Kyoto 1992 Archived copy ( Memento of the original from September 28, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /