Andaman Padauk

I visited a wildlife park in Meleng few days ago along with my 3 colleagues. The place is in the Jorhat district of Assam and about 30 kilometers from the town. There are tea gardens of interminable area which seem to spread like a baize colored carpets miles and miles.

After reaching there, we were escorted by a NGO guide- a Nepali boy to guide us through the jungle. He was very courteous and was very enthusiastic to show us many beautiful trees, vines and fauna. He showed us a python which was curled into a bundle and would not budge even after prodded with a stick. Along the path which we treaded were fresh feces of elephants excreta indicating that elephants were nearby.

There were some very rare and exotic trees and vines we saw over there; there were white pepper vines from which were hanging the bunches of pepper fruit. There were Rudrakash trees the seed of which are highly prized for making rosaries by Hindus in India for good fortune and peace. There were other trees from the bark of which incense exuded. Greatest surprise was the majestic trees called Andaman Paduak truly very tall trees. The guide told us that they have been planted here after being brought from Andamans. More about this tree is taken from internet and given below.

Andaman Padauk is a tall deciduous tree found only in Andaman. It grows up to height of 120 feet. The timber is highly prized for making furniture. Burr and Buttress formation add charm to the tree and used in making unique furniture.

andaman-padauk.jpg

King Solomon, proverbial for his wisdom in governing the Israelites during the 10th century B.C., must have really known his wood, too. He chose stalwart Padauk for the pillars of his temple.

French Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI were separated from Solomon by thousands of years. Yet, these 17th-century rulers also favored a red-orange Padauk they called narra. With it, royal woodworkers crafted kingly cups and chalices. Because water placed in these vessels turned yellow, royalty believed the “potion” had medicinal properties.

A century later, the colorful wood of Solomon and the Louis attracted even wider acclaim. As a veneer named amboyna, padauk was featured in Empire-style furniture.

Far removed from European pomp and furniture fashion of the 1800s, convicts sent to British penal colonies in the Andaman islands off Burma labored to supply the padauk sought by world craftsmen. In fact, Chicago’s Pullman Company imported much of this exotically beautiful and durable “Andaman” padauk to panel railroad passenger cars.

Wood identification

All seven species we recognize as padauk belong to the genus Pterocarpus. African padauk (P. soyauxi), sometimes referred to as vermillion, is the only padauk species readily available today. Others occasionally sold include Andaman padauk (P. dalbergioides), Angola padauk or muniga, kiaat (P. angolensis), Burmese padauk (P. macrocarpus), narra (P. indicus), and sandalwood padauk (P. santalinus).

Padauk grows in tropical climates, although the geography changes from rain forest to dry, nearly treeless plains with each species. You’ll find padauk in India, Indochina, the South Pacific, West Africa, and even southern Florida.

Except for squatty African muninga, most padauk trees look like elms, with large, spreading crowns reaching to a height of 120′. Averaging 7′ in girth, their slightly irregular, fluted trunks have smooth, yellow-tinted bark. Trunks often have no branches for the first 65′.

The leaves of some padauk species provide protein in human diets as a substitute for green vegetables. All padauks bear distinctive, round, inedible fruit banded by a flat wing that gives them a flying saucer-like appearance. In fact, pterocarpus means “winged fruit.”

Depending on the species, padauk’s coarse-grained heartwood varies in color from a lustrous purple-red to orange-red. With age and exposure to sunlight, it turns deep maroon. Quartersawn wood features a pronounced ribbon stripe. Sapwood never reaches market.

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3 thoughts on “Andaman Padauk

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