Field of Science

Castilla rubber

One of the trees that is fairly frequent along water courses here on the warm, wet side (east of the mountains) of Costa Rica is the native rubber tree (Castilla elastica – Mulberry family).  It’s not really very impressive and students who just go ga-ga over some little lizard look upon trees dully and fail to understand the importance of these rubber trees in ecology and in history.  Castilla rubber was an important rainforest product for Costa Rica about a century ago and the source of all those rubber balls the Aztecs used for sport.  However para rubber (Hevea brasiliensis – Euphorb family) became the predominant rubber of commerce, and castilla rubber sort of faded into history.  So to give the troops something to remember, TPP tapped a tree by puncturing the outer bark (hard) into the softer inner bark that has lots of latex secreting cells.  The wound was small but the amount of latex that oozed out in just a few minutes was quite impressive, and when it coagulates, it is quite elastic.  On to chicle. 

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