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Intsia palembanica - Miq.

Common Name Borneo Teak, Merbau
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Forests, often occurring near the coast but also found inland at elevations up to 1,000 metres[310 ].
Range E. Asia - Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Intsia palembanica Borneo Teak, Merbau

Intsia palembanica Borneo Teak, Merbau


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Intsia palembanica or commonly known as Borneo Teak is a tree growing up to 50 m tall with trunk diameter of up to 120 cm. It can be found in forests in East Asia. Young seeds are edible. The bark and wood yields brown and yellow dyes used for coloring mats and clothes. The wood is heavy, hard, strong, durable and resistant to fungi, wood borers, and termites. It is used for high-grade construction work, interior finishing, panelling, parquet flooring, furniture, etc.

Physical Characteristics

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Intsia palembanica is an evergreen Tree growing to 80 m (262ft) by 60 m (196ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Afzelia bakeri Prain Afzelia palembanica (Miq.) Baker Intsia bakeri (Prain) Prain Intsia plurijuga H

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

Young seeds are sometimes eaten[310 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Bark and leaves are used medicinally[310].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Furniture  Wood

Other Uses: Brown and yellow dyes are obtained from the bark and wood[46 , 310 ]. They are used for colouring mats and clothes[46 ]. The heartwood is orangey-brown, becoming dark red-brown or dark brown when exposed to the light; it is clearly demarcated from the 5 - 8cm wide band of white or pale yellow sapwood. The texture is coarse but even; the grain interlocked or wavy. The wood is heavy; hard to very hard; strong; durable, being resistant to fungi and dry wood borers, and moderately resistant to termites and ocean water. It seasons slowly, with only a slight risk of checking and distortion; once dry it is stable in service. The wood works well but has a fairly high blunting effect, stellite-tipped and tungsten carbide tools are recommended; nailing and screwing are good, but require pre-boring; gluing is correct; the wood takes a very fine polish. It is used for high-grade construction work, interior finishing, panelling, parquet flooring, furniture, railroad ties and beams[46 , 661 , 848 ].

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A tree of the moister lowland tropics found most commonly near sea level, though it can succeed at elevations up to 450 metres[303 ]. It grows best in areas where the minimum temperature does not fall below 17°c and the maximum is no higher than 33°c[303 ]. It is susceptible to frost[303 ]. It tolerates an annual rainfall in the range of 1,500 - 2,300 mm[303 ]. The following notes are taken from Intsia bijuga, and are likely to be more or less true for this species. Prefers a position in full sun[307 ]. Prefers a very well-drained soil[307 ]. Plants are very tolerant of saline soils and salt-laden winds[303 , 307 ]. Established plants are moderately drought tolerant[303 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

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Plant Propagation


Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Borneo Teak, Merbau

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Intsia bijugaMoluccan Ironwood, IpilTree25.0 11-12 SLMSNDM124

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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