Guam Territorial Tree
Ifit (common name)
Intsia bijuga (scientific name)
Ifit is a medium to large tree native to coastal areas and rain forests across a wide area of the tropics. It is native to many Pacific Islands, Indian Ocean nations, and Southeast Asia.
The tree has a wide variety of common names including ipil, ifil, Moluccan ironwood, Borneo teak, vesi, merbau, and kwila. In the Philippines, it also known in some areas as taal. It goes by many other names in many other local languages.
Ifit is the official tree of the territory of Guam. However, Guam is not represented in the plantings of the National Grove of State Trees at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC.
Ifit typically reaches 23 to 82 feet (7-25 m) in height, often with a buttressed base. Its leaves are dark green, compound with two to four leaflets. Its flowers are white to pink, and arranged in clusters. Each flower has a single petal. The fruit of this tree is a thick, rigid, leathery bean pod, 4 to 12 inches long.
Height: up to 150 ft (45.7 m)
Diameter: 1.6-6.5 ft (0.5-2 m)
Bark: light pink to reddish brown, weathers to light gray, bronze or red slightly dappled, peels in irregular scales
Fruit: thick, rigid, oblong, green pods, up to 4 in (10 cm) wide and 12 in (30 cm) long
Leaves: shiny, light green, 3-5 in (8-15 cm)
This species is generally slow growing, taking 75 to 80 years to mature. It is harvestable for timber production at about 50 to 60 years of age.
The hot, wet climates of mangrove swamps, rocky coastal areas, and lowlands of Southeast Asia and many Pacific islands are the preferred habitat of the ifit, although it may also occur inland, especially along rain forest streams and floodplains. The mean annual temperature in the tree's range is 79°-81°F (26°–27°C), tolerating a maximum temperature of about 91°F (33°C) and a minimum temperature of 63°F.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
There is very little written about the relationships between ifit and animal life. Ifit provides good shelter and nesting for birds. Feral deer and pigs use the tree for grazing.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
The tree's timber, often called merbau or kwila, is a premium hardwood, desired for its strength and durability. The dark, red-brown wood is favored for use in furniture, doors, house building, and woodcarving of traditional cultural items such as kava bowls, canoes, musical instruments, body adornments, and weapons. Artisans also carve items such as clocks, tables, and other useful and souvenir items from the wood. Before World War II, most homes in ifit's range used the wood for windowsills and beams.
The wood is termite-resistant, making it useful for flooring in U.S. and European markets, where it is commonly sold under different names. The wood and bark can be used as a fuel and to produce a dye. The bark and leaves of the ifit are used in many traditional medicines and treatments. The seeds can be used as an insect repellant, or made edible by soaking them in salt water and then boiling them. The ifit tree plays an important role in Polynesian life during cultural celebrations.
The tree has good potential for development as a plantation crop. It is often used as a windbreak, for coastal protection, and as an ornamental.
The value, beauty, and hardiness of ifit wood have led to extensive harvest of the trees and export of its timber. In addition, infestation by an insect called psyllid and the frequent and severe typhoons of the 1990s have made ifit rare or almost extinct in many parts of its range, including Guam. A general lack of a tradition of replanting means older trees are not being replaced. However, planting in urban landscapes, parks, home yards and open spaces is increasing.
Ifit is easily propagated by seeds or transplanted seedlings. Propagation is primarily through bare root seedling, although stump cutting has been used. Despite ifit's increasing rarity in the wild, the tree is rarely deliberately planted in the Pacific Islands.
Ifit is a tropical rain forest tree, often appearing in areas bordering mangrove swamps, rivers, or floodplains. It is dominant in rocky, well-drained soils and rocky outcrops in coastal areas. It can grow in light, medium, and heavy soils, and alkaline to acidic soils, tolerating shallow, saline, and waterlogged sites. It thrives on leeward sides of main islands or seasonally dry forest areas, and also in coastal and river forests. Ifit grows best in areas receiving 79 in (2 m) of rainfall annually, but will tolerate long, dry seasons.
Ifit is native from the Indian Ocean eastward to Polynesia. It can be found on the Pacific Islands of Guam, New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, and the Mariana, Caroline, and Solomon Islands. In Micronesia, ifit grows on Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and the Marshall Islands. Ifit is found in Madagascar, the Seychelles, Tanzania, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Australia.
Ifit grows mainly at sea level, but can be found inland at elevations of up to 1,970 feet (600 m).
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press