Forest 42 - Chinese Rubber Tree


Eucommia ulmoides

Forest of Chinese rubber trees. Photo not from the Arboretum 

Other common names

Hardy rubber tree, Gutta-percha tree. Chinese:  Tu chung, Du zhong

Origin of the species name

Eucommia from Latin meaning good gum; ulmoides from Latin meaning like Ulmus (elms).

Family

Eucommiaceae

Date planted

September 2009

Lifespan

Unspecified

Leaves of Chinese rubber tree Photo not from the Arboretum

General description

This is a small-sized deciduous tree with ascending branches and rounded to broadly spreading form. It has shiny, dark green foliage but it does not have an autumn colour. The greenish-yellow flowers are inconspicuous and appear in clusters, along with the new leaves, in spring. The fruits, produced from summer to autumn, are like those of an elm with flattened winged seeds. E. ulmoidesis the only cold-tolerant rubber producing tree and is able to survive temperatures of -30oC. It is not relatedto the true gutta-percha tree of south-east Asia, nor to the South American rubber tree. Both the sapwood and bark contain latex and if a leaf is torn, latex will flow from the broken edges, solidify and hold the leaf together. Height 18m Spread 10m.

Natural distribution and habitat  

The species is native to central and southern China where it grows in mixed forests in a wide range of habitats.

Conservation status

It is classified as near threatened. Many natural stands have been cleared and although it is now becoming a rare species in the wild, it is widely cultivated in China.

Planting pattern

Planted in curved rows following a complex pattern of spirals.

Uses

It is the only hardy tree from temperate regions that produces a rubber latex. The bark is highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine and is usually harvested from trees that are 15-20 years old. It has been used to treat conditions of liver and kidney deficiency in which patients suffer from weak, stiff, and painful back and knees. The timber is used for furniture and fuel and the solidified latex is used for lining pipes, insulating electric cables, and for filling teeth.