How the rubber tree got its name
Henry Wickam with a rubber tree in London
From where did we get the rubber tree? It is not native to Sri Lanka
such as coconut or mango.
The lower Amazon area in Brazil is the home of the rubber tree. You
must have learned at school that rubber seedling (young tender plants)
were first planted in the Botanical Gardens in Henarathgoda, Gampaha,
sometime in the 19th century. The seedlings did not come to Ceylon
direct from Brazil. They came from London.
Way back in 1876, Henry Wickam, a planter exported rubber seeds from
the lower Amazon area of Brazil to London. These seeds were germinated
at the Tropical Herbarium in Kew Gardens in London. Later that year some
seedlings were sent to Ceylon. These seedlings grew into trees and they
in turn produced more seedlings which were planted in other areas. This
was the beginning of rubber plantations in our country.
What is the native name of this tree? What did the people in the
lower Amazon area call this tree? No one seems to know that Hevea
Brasillensis is the botanical name. How did the tree get its present
A British scientist, Joseph Priestly discovered that the material was
good at rubbing pencil marks off paper, and he called the material
rubber and thereafter the tree too was called rubber.
Rubber is grown in 15 districts in Sri Lanka. The top growers are the
Kegalle, Kalutara and Ratnapura districts.