What is the plant
A breathtaking, large conifer native to moist forests at moderate altitudes in southern and central New Caledonia. It can reach a height of more than 40 m, with a massive trunk to more than 3 m in diameter, though most trees will not attain that size. Its large, narrowly elliptic leaves are thick and leathery. The fragmented natural populations are considered endangered and it is nearly unknown in cultivation even though it would make a stunning ornamental for warm temperate and tropical climates.
The trunk is a source of a kauri or dammar resin The tree produces an immense quantity of a yellowish, translucent, fragrant resin
Dammar is a hard resin, obtained from various trees of Southeast Asia. Traditionally, it is used for purposes such as caulking boats and baskets, as an adhesive, a medicine, as a fuel for torches and sometimes in foods. Dammar has many commercial applications, though many of these uses are less important nowadays due to the advent of synthetic materials. Commercially, it is an ingredient of inks, lacquers, oil paints, varnishes etc, and is used as a glazing agent in foods
Harvesting of the resin commences when the bole is around 25cm in diameter (approx 20 years old). Triangular cuts (becoming circular with age) are arranged in vertical rows around the trunk. The cuts are several centimetres wide at first, but become enlarged at every tapping and eventually become holes of 15 - 20cm in depth and width. The average number of holes for a tree about 30 metres tall and 60 - 80cm in diameter is 9 - 11 in each of 4 - 5 vertical rows. For the higher holes, the tapper climbs the tree supported by a rattan belt and using the lower holes as footholds.
The exuded resin is allowed to dry on the tree before it is collected. The frequency with which the tree is visited to refreshen the cut varies from once a week to once a month, depending on how far the tree is from the village. Tapping can continue for 30 years
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