31 May 2018 (Thursday) – Xylarium Kepong (KEPw) at Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), which was established in 1918 with a collection of 10,036 wood specimens, has been recognised by Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) in 2012 as being the largest and oldest wood collection in the country.
Just like a library for books and a herbarium for a collection of plant specimens, xylarium is a collection centre for wood specimens. These certified wood collections (which are authenticated samples) are suitable for research .
The oldest wood specimens at KEPw were 113-118 years’ old. Since its inception in 1918, KEPw plays an important role in the identification of timber and commercial timber classifications. In 1925, timber harvesting was systematically documented and classified separately according to their states of origin in the country while overseas woods were obtained via exchange. In 1963, the collection of timber samples from Sabah and Sarawak was initiated.
FRIM Director-General Dato’ Dr Abd Latif Mohmod said: “The wood specimens are useful as reference materials for wood identification services provided by FRIM for domestic and foreign customers including industry, authorities and individuals.”
Industries such as contractors and individuals require such services for the verification of building materials as well as to ensure they obtain the right type of timber and price from suppliers. Government agencies, on the other hand, need the services in addressing issues such as export of protected species (Royal Malaysian Customs Department); illegal logging (forestry departments); the disintegration of timber species under construction (Public Works Department); and fraudulent sale of timber (police).
Some wood specimens were picked up together with voucher specimens collected for the FRIM Herbarium. Therefore, it is also important for the study of plant taxonomy because cross reference may be done, specimen nomenclature may also be updated if the plant taxonomy changes.
Recently, FRIM Wood Anatomy Laboratories (WAL) Head Dr Nordahlia Abdullah Siam has developed MyWood-ID application in collaboration with Tunku Abdul Rahman University (UTAR) based on these wood collections. The wood recognition app using smartphone, which can identify some 100 local timber types, is fast, accurate, cost effective and user-friendly. The innovation won the Gold Medal at the International Invention, Innovation and Technology Exhibition 2018 (ITEX’18) held on 10-12 May in Kuala Lumpur.