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Useful Tropical Plants

Aquilaria malaccensis

Lam.

Thymelaeaceae


Aquilaria agallocha, treated here as a synonym of Aquilaria malaccensis, is sometimes considered to be a distinct species; in which case it is native to northeastern India whilst Aquilaria malaccensis is native to Malaysia[
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Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

+ Synonyms

Agallochum malaccense (Lam.) Kuntze

Aquilaria agallocha Roxb.

Aquilariella malaccensis (Lam) Tiegh.

Common Name: Agar Wood

Aquilaria malaccensis
Looking up the trunk into the canopy
Photograph by: Ahmad Fuad Morad
Creative Commons License
Aquilaria malaccensis Aquilaria malaccensis Aquilaria malaccensis Aquilaria malaccensis

General Information

Agar wood is an evergreen tree growing up to 49 metres tall, though it is usually rather smaller at around 20 metres. The bole can be up to 60cm in diameter[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
,
451
Title
Flora Malesiana Series 1
Publication
 
Author
Various
Website
http://www.archive.org
Publisher
Nationaal Herbarium Nederiand, Universiteit Leiden branch
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A massive treatment of the plants of the Malaysian Archipelago. Much of it has been made available to download from the Internet
,
653
Title
Plants of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.asianplant.net/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Excellent site with brief information on the plant, its range, habitat and uses, plus phots of specimens, close-ops of flowers and leaves etc,
].
The aromatic resin obtained from this tree is one of the most famous and most expensive on the planet. It has a very long history of use in religious ceremonies, at funerals etc in the Orient and is widely sought after as an ingredient in perfumery. Commonly harvested from the wild, trials are being carried out into growing it in plantations.
The tree has been heavily overexploited in the wild leading to strong concerns that it could become extinct[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. It is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List (2009) and is considered critically endangered in India[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

451
Title
Flora Malesiana Series 1
Publication
 
Author
Various
Website
http://www.archive.org
Publisher
Nationaal Herbarium Nederiand, Universiteit Leiden branch
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A massive treatment of the plants of the Malaysian Archipelago. Much of it has been made available to download from the Internet
,
899
Title
Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak Vols 1 - 6
Publication
 
Author
Soepadmo E.; Saw L.G.; Chung R.C.K. (Editors)
Publisher
Forest Research Institute Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur.
Year
2002
ISBN
983-2181-27-5
Description
A flora of the woody plants of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo, often giving details of plant uses.

Range

E. Asia - northeast India through Myanmar, Malaysia to Indonesia and the Philippines.

Habitat

An upper canopy tree, commonly found scattered in dense primary forest and the more open, secondary formations, mainly in plains but also on hillsides and ridges up to 750 metres[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
,
653
Title
Plants of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.asianplant.net/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Excellent site with brief information on the plant, its range, habitat and uses, plus phots of specimens, close-ops of flowers and leaves etc,
]. Mostly by rivers and streams and on ridges with sandy soils[
653
Title
Plants of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.asianplant.net/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Excellent site with brief information on the plant, its range, habitat and uses, plus phots of specimens, close-ops of flowers and leaves etc,
].

Properties

Conservation StatusVulnerable
Edibility Rating *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height20.00 m
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details

Grows best in undulating terrain in the moister lowland tropics, being found at elevations of 200 - 700 metres[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. It prefers an annual rainfall of 1,500 - 6,500 mm, a mean annual maximum temperature of 22 - 28°c and a mean annual minimum temperature of 14 - 21°c[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Prefers heavy soils developed from gneiss and other metamorphic rocks, but it also grows well on sandy loams developed from sandstone[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The extremely high prices paid for high quality agar wood and for the essential oil and the indiscriminate felling of both diseased and healthy trees threaten natural stands of Aquilaria including Aquilaria malaccensis to extinction. Research into possibilities of artificial induction and stimulation of agar wood formation is therefore urgently required and may offer high economic returns, especially as trials indicate that management of plantations presents no great difficulties. Unless such methods are developed, Aquilaria malaccensis may soon be extinct[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Plantations have been established, mainly for experimental purposes, to test methods for the induction of agar wood formation[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Three closely related species of Aquilaria are considered to be the major sources of agar wood and are distinguished by the length of their calyx lobes:-
Aquilaria crassna, which comes from Indo-China, has lobes 12 - 15mm long.
Aquilaria malaccensis, from India, and Malaysia has lobes 2 - 3mm long.
Aquilaria sinensis, from China, has lobes 8mm long.
A number of other species are less important sources of agar wood, including some minor Aquilaria spp., Enkleia malaccensis and the timbers Gonystylus bancanus and G. macrophyllus[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Trees are generally quite slow growing. They have been recorded as reaching a height of nearly 5 metres and a diameter of 30 cm 8 years after planting, whilst 67 year old plantation trees in Malaysia had reached an average height of 27 metres and a diameter of 38 cm[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. Mature trees aged around 80 years may reach a height of 25 - 30 metres and a diameter at breast height of 55 - 70 cm[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
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Year
0
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Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Flowering and fruiting may start at an age of 7 - 9 years. Good seed years occur infrequently and a medium sized tree may then produce 1.5 kg seed[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The best agarwood yields are from trees of 50 years age or more but resin is produced as early as 20 years[
349
Title
Global Tree Campaign - 40 Species in Trade
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.unep-wcmc.org/trees/trade/40_species_in_trade.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Information on the habitats, uses and some cultivation notes for 40 species of timber trees.
].
Agar wood formation is a pathological process taking place in the stem or main branches where an injury has occurred. Fungi are involved in the process, but the process itself is not yet fully understood. Damage by boring insects is often associated with the infection. It is believed that the tree is first attacked by a pathogenic fungus, which causes it to weaken. Infection by a second fungus causes the formation of agar wood, but it is unclear whether it is a product of the fungus or the tree. The fungus implicated in the formation of agar wood in this species is Cytosphaera mangiferae, while Melanotus flavolives is assumed to play a similar role in Aquilaria sinensis[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
This species forms an association with endotrophic mycorrhizal fungi[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Edible Uses

The resin is used to flavour curries in Malaysia[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Medicinal

Agar wood is an astringent, stimulant, tonic herb that relieves spasms, especially of the digestive and respiratory systems, and lowers fevers[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

In Western, Chinese and Indian medicines the incense is used against cancer, especially of the thyroid gland. In China it is applied as a sedative against abdominal complaints, asthma, colic and diarrhoea, and as an aphrodisiac and carminative[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
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http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

The grated wood enters into various preparations used especially during and after childbirth, and to treat rheumatism, smallpox and abdominal pains. Decoctions of the wood are said to have anti-microbial properties, e.g. Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Shigella flexneri[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Other Uses

Agar wood is the rare and famous, resin-containing heartwood that is produced mainly from old and diseased trees of several members of this genus[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. In trade a distinction between the wood from these species is rarely made[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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http://proseanet.org/
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Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The fragrance produced by the burning agar wood has been highly valued for thousands of years, and its use as incense for ceremonial purposes in Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism is widespread throughout eastern and southern Asia. In Thailand it is put into funeral pyres, while in Japan, the incense is used in tea ceremonies[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Wood only partly saturated with resin but still fragrant, and occasionally also the wood remaining after distillation, is made into sticks called 'joss-sticks' or 'agarbattis' which are burnt as incense[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The incense is also used as an insect repellent[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
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Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Agar-wood oil is an essential oil obtained by water and steam distillation of agar wood. It is used in luxury perfumery for application in e.g. Oriental and woody-aldehydic bases, ‘chypres’ and ‘fougères’. It produces interesting odour notes with clove oil, e.g. In carnation bases. The oil is so rare and expensive that it is only produced on request[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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http://proseanet.org/
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Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Agar-wood oil is a yellow to dark amber, viscous liquid with a characteristic balsamic and woody odour. Its aroma has some resemblance with vetiverol or styrax and has a sweetness similar to that of sandalwood oil. Its odour is long-lasting and exhibits a good tenacity in applications[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

The silvery inner bark can be removed from the trunk in a single large sheet[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. It is highly valued for its strength and durability and is made into cloth and ropes[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
,
451
Title
Flora Malesiana Series 1
Publication
 
Author
Various
Website
http://www.archive.org
Publisher
Nationaal Herbarium Nederiand, Universiteit Leiden branch
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A massive treatment of the plants of the Malaysian Archipelago. Much of it has been made available to download from the Internet
]. It is also made into writing material which was formerly only used for chronicles of important events and religious books[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

The timber of undiseased trees, known as ‘karas’, is soft and very light with a density of about 400 kg/m3 air dry. It is creamy white to pale yellowish-brown or greyish-brown, heartwood and sapwood not clearly differentiated[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. The texture is rather coarse and the wood diffuse-porous. It is suitable for making boxes, light indoor construction and veneer[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The scented wood differs from the normal wood due mainly to deposition of an aromatic resin. The resin is concentrated in the included phloem strands. Because of the resin content the scented wood is relatively hard, brittle and heavy[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

Propagation

Seed should be sown immediately, as it remains viable for only about 1 month. It is sown in nursery beds, about 5 mm deep in a mixture of soil, sand and manure and kept under light shade. Germination starts after 10 - 12 days and is normally complete after 1 month[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. Seed sown immediately after collection has about 65% germination, falling to 45% after 1 week and only 5% after 3 weeks in storage[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. The seedlings are very prone to insect attack[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. Seedlings are pricked out into containers 40 - 45 days after germination when they are 3 - 5 cm tall, and are kept under shade[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. They are ready for transplanting when 30 - 35 cm tall and 10 - 12 months old[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
]. Transplanting bare-rooted seedlings has been tried successfully in some areas[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
Fruit harvested for seed should be collected when mature but still green. A medium- sized tree produces about 2,000 seeds per year, but seed production may fluctuate greatly between years[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
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http://proseanet.org/
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Year
0
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Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The fruits are dried in the shade for about 2 days, they then burst and release the seed[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

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