22 January 2018 (Monday) – The oldest planted forest trees at Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) are over 100 years of age, older even than the existence of the institute. Based on the records and publications on FRIM’s history, an area in Kepong (Field 12) was cleared for non-systematic trial planting from December 1910 until 1912. Among the species were kapur (Dryobalanops aromatica) and keladan (D. oblongifolia) of Dipterocarpaceae.
Recently, FRIM Director General Dato’ Dr Abd Latif Mohmod and the Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System Branch (RSGI) staff led by Dr Hamdan Omar visited the site to inspect these trees. Among them, the largest is a keladan, measuring 115.8 cm of diameter at breast height (dbh) and 36.4 m tall. Its total biomass is estimated to be 20.3 tonnes and carbon storage, 9.3 tonnes.
“This 116-year-old tree and other heritage trees are the precious living assets of the campus that we must cherish. This is especially important as we work towards the recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said Abd Latif.
Keladan is distributed in the dipterocarp forests of Borneo, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, usually by the rivers, from lowlands up to 600 m above sea level. It has a straight bole with huge expanding buttresses and can reach up to 55 meters in height and 150 cm in dbh. Classed together with kapur, the timbers are priced for its resistance to fungal attack. The wood is used for shipbuilding and construction. The ball-shape fruit with five undeveloped wings can be eaten raw.
Although some populations are vulnerable to the threat of habitat loss, many are still found within the protected areas of Peninsular Malaysia and therefore, it is categorised as ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List.