Intsia bijuga is a species of flowering
tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, that is native to the
Indo-Pacific. It ranges from Tanzania and Madagascar east through
India and Queensland, Australia to the Pacific island of Samoa. It
grows to around 50 meters (160 feet) tall with a highly buttressed
trunk. It inhabits mangrove forests.
The tree has a variety of common names including ipil, merbau and
kwila. In the Philippines, it also known in some areas as taal.
The bark and leaves of the ipil are used in traditional medicines.
The tree's timber, called merbau or kwila, is a very durable and
termite-resistant wood, making it a highly valued material for
flooring and other uses. The wood can also be used to extract a dye.
Merbau can contain a "gold" fleck that runs through the grain,
considered to be attractive by some. Due to extensive logging of the
tree, it is endangered in many places in Southeast Asia, and almost
extinct in some. Extensive amounts were purchased for the venue of
the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, which is the largest importer of
the wood. The wood is used for flooring in U.S. and European markets
where it is commonly sold under different names. Both licensed and
unlicensed mills harvest the wood.
According to Greenpeace large amounts of ipil timber sourced from
illegal logging is being imported into China where there are lax
import rules. Greenpeace are targeting users in Western countries in
order to halt the trade in ipil wood. Greenpeace claims that at the
current rate of logging the tree will be wiped out within 35 years.