Teak (Tectona grandis) is a tropical hardwood tree species in the family Lamiaceae. It is a large, deciduous tree that occurs in mixed hardwood forests. Tectona grandis has small, fragrant white flowers arranged in dense clusters (panicles) at the end of the branches. These flowers contain both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers). The large, papery leaves of teak trees are often hairy on the lower surface. Teak wood has a leather-like smell when it is freshly milled and is particularly valued for its durability and water resistance. The wood is used for boat building, exterior construction, veneer, furniture, carving, turnings, and other small wood projects.
Tectona grandis is native to south and southeast Asia, mainly Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka, but is naturalised and cultivated in many countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Myanmar's teak forests account for nearly half of the world's naturally occurring teak. Molecular studies show that there are two centres of genetic origin of teak: one in India and the other in Myanmar and Laos.
Teak's high oil content, high tensile strength and tight grain make it particularly suitable where weather resistance is desired. It is used in the manufacture of outdoor furniture and boat decks. It is also used for cutting boards, indoor flooring, countertops and as a veneer for indoor finishings. Although easily worked, it can cause severe blunting on edged tools because of the presence of silica in the wood. Over time teak can weather to a silvery-grey finish, especially when exposed to sunlight.
Teak is used extensively in India to make doors and window frames, furniture, and columns and beams in homes. It is resistant to termite attacks and damage caused by other insects. Mature teak fetches a very good price. It is grown extensively by forest departments of different states in forest areas.
Leaves of the teak wood tree are used in making Pellakai gatti (jackfruit dumpling), where batter is poured into a teak leaf and is steamed. This type of usage is found in the coastal district of Udupi in the Tulunadu region in South India. The leaves are also used in gudeg, a dish of young jackfruit made in Central Java, Indonesia, and give the dish its dark brown colour.
Teak is used as a food plant by the larvae of moths of the genus Endoclita including E. aroura, E. chalybeatus, E. damor, E. gmelina, E. malabaricus, E. sericeus and E. signifer and other Lepidoptera including the turnip moth.
Teak has been used as a boat-building material for over 2000 years (it was found in an archaeological dig in Berenice Panchrysos, a port on the Indian Roman trade route). In addition to relatively high strength, teak is also highly resistant to rot, fungi and mildew. The wood has a relatively low shrinkage ratio, which makes it excellent for applications where it undergoes periodic changes in moisture. Teak has the unusual property of being both an excellent structural timber for framing or planking, while at the same time being easily worked and finished, unlike some otherwise similar woods such as purpleheart. For this reason, it is also prized for the trim work on boat interiors. Due to the oily nature of the wood, care must be taken to properly prepare the wood before gluing.
When used on boats, teak is also very flexible in the finishes that may be applied. One option is to use no finish at all, in which case the wood will naturally weather to a pleasing silver grey. The wood may also be oiled with a finishing agent such as linseed or tung oil. This results in a pleasant, somewhat dull finish. Finally, teak may also be varnished for a deep, lustrous glow.
Teak is also used extensively in boat decks, as it is extremely durable and requires very little maintenance. The teak tends to wear in to the softer 'summer' growth bands first, forming a natural 'non-slip' surface. Any sanding is therefore only damaging. Use of modern cleaning compounds, oils or preservatives will shorten the life of the teak, as it contains natural teak oil a very small distance below the white surface. Wooden boat experts will only wash the teak with salt water, and re-caulk when needed. This cleans the deck, and prevents it from drying out and the wood shrinking. The salt helps it absorb and retain moisture, and prevents any mildew and algal growth. Over-maintenance, such as cleaning teak with harsh chemicals, can shorten its usable lifespan as decking.
World's largest living teak tree
Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (Myanmar) found the world's two biggest living teak trees on 28 August 2017 in Homalin Township, Sagaing Region, Myanmar. The biggest one, named Homemalynn 1, is 27.5 feet (8.4 m) in girth and 110 feet (34 m) tall. The second biggest one, named Homemalynn 2, is 27 feet (8.2 m) in girth.
Previously, the world's biggest recorded teak tree was located within the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary in the Palakkad District of Kerala in India, named Kannimara. The tree is approximately 47.5 metres (156 ft) tall. Its age is between 450–500 years and is considered one of the oldest teak trees in the world. In 2017, a tree was discovered in the Ottakallan area of the Thundathil range of the Malayattoor Forest Division in Kerala with a girth of 7.65 metres (25.1 ft) and height of 40 metres (130 ft). A teak tree in Kappayam, Edamalayar, Kerala, which used to be considered the biggest, has a girth of only 7.23 meters.This is the oldest planted teak on earth. It is located in Conolly's plot (the world’s oldest teak plantation), Nilambur, Kerala.