Meranti

Scientific name

Shorea spp., Parashorea spp. Family: Dipterocarpaceae

Local names

There are many species of Shorea and Parashorea growing in South-East Asia. The timber of these species is marketed in Australia as meranti, Borneo cedar, seraya, lauan and Philippine mahogany.

Description and natural occurrence

Large trees ranging up to 70 m in height and 1.5 m in stem diameter. Stems usually have moderately large buttresses and straight cylindrical trunks.

A tropical rainforest species found throughout South-East Asia and the islands of the South West Pacific region including the Philippines, Indonesia and east Malaysia.

Wood appearance

Colour. The heartwood varies from pale pink to dark red in the light and dark red groups and from white through straw to yellow in the yellow-white groups. Sapwood cannot always be reliably identified by colour difference.

Grain. Moderately coarse textured with quarter sawn material often displaying an attractive ribbon figure.

Wood properties

Density. Balau (other than red Balau) 900 kg/m3, Red balau 840 kg/m3, Philippine mahogany (light red) 525 kg/m3, Philippine mahogany (red) 535 kg/m3, Meranti (dark red) 670 kg/m3, Meranti (light red) 560 kg/m3, Meranti (white) 705 kg/m3, Meranti (yellow) 660 kg/m3.

Strength groups. Balau (other than red Balau) S3 unseasoned; (SD3) seasoned. Red balau S3 unseasoned; SD4 seasoned. Philippine mahogany (light red) (S6) unseasoned; (SD6) seasoned. Philippine mahogany (red) (S6) unseasoned; (SD6) seasoned. Meranti (dark red) S5 unseasoned; SD6 seasoned. Meranti (light red) S6 unseasoned; SD7 seasoned. Meranti (white) S4 unseasoned; SD5 seasoned. Meranti (yellow) S5 unseasoned; (SD6) seasoned.

Stress grades. Balau (other than red Balau) F8, F11, F14, F17 (unseasoned), F14, F17, F22, F27 (seasoned); Red balau F8, F11, F14, F17 (unseasoned), F11, F14, F17, F22 (seasoned); Philippine mahogany (light red) F4, F5, F7, F8 (unseasoned), F7, F8, F11, F14 (seasoned); Philippine mahogany (red) F4, F5, F7, F8 (unseasoned), F7, F8, F11, F14 (seasoned); Meranti (dark red) F5, F7, F8, F11 (unseasoned), F7, F8, F11, F14 (seasoned); Meranti (light red) F4, F5, F7, F8 (unseasoned), F5, F7, F8, F11 (seasoned); Meranti (white) F7, F8, F11, F14 (unseasoned), F8, F11, F14, F17 (seasoned); Meranti (yellow) F5, F7, F8, F11 (unseasoned), F7, F8, F11, F14 (seasoned); when visually stress graded in accordance with AS 2082-2000, Timber - hardwood - visually stress-graded for structural purposes.

Joint groups. Balau (other than red Balau) J2 unseasoned; JD2 seasoned. Red balau JD2 seasoned. Philippine mahogany (light red) SD4 seasoned. Philippine mahogany (red) JD4 seasoned. Meranti (dark red) JD3 seasoned. Meranti (light red) J4 unseasoned; JD4 seasoned. Meranti (white) JD3 seasoned. Meranti (yellow) JD3 seasoned.

Shrinkage to 12% MC. 6.5-8.0% (tangential); 4.0-5.0% (radial).

Unit shrinkage. Not available.

Durability above-ground. Balau (other than red Balau) class 1 - life expectancy over 40 years. Red balau class (4) - life expectancy less than 7 years. Philippine mahogany (light red) class (4) - life expectancy less than 7 years. Philippine mahogany (red) class 3 - life expectancy 7 to 15 years. Meranti (dark red) class 3 - life expectancy 7 to 15 years. Meranti (light red) class 4 - life expectancy less than 7 years. Meranti (white) class (4) - life expectancy less than 7 years. Meranti (yellow) class (4) - life expecancy less than 7 years.

Durability in-ground. Balau (other than red Balau) class 2 - life expectancy 15 to 25 years. Red balau class 4 - life expectancy less than 5 years. Philippine mahogany (light red) class 4 - life expectancy less than 5 years. Philippine mahogany (red) class 4 - life expectancy less than 5 years. Meranti (dark red) class 4 - life expectancy less than 5 years. Meranti (light red) class 4 - life expectancy less than 5 years. Meranti (white) class 4 - life expectancy less than 5 years. Meranti (yellow) class 4 - life expectancy less than 5 years.

Lyctine susceptibility. Untreated sapwood susceptible to lyctid borer attack.

Termite resistance. Yellow meranti is resistant but all other types of meranti are not resistant.

Preservation. Sapwood readily accepts preservative impregnation but penetration of heartwood is negligible using currently available commercial processes.

Seasoning. All species can be satisfactorily dried using conventional air and kiln seasoning methods.

Hardness. Firm to soft (rated 4 and 5 on a 6 class scale) in relation and ease of working with hand tools.

Machining. Machines reasonably well to a smooth surface. However, some of the lower density species may give a woolly cut if sharp tools are not used.

Fixing. No difficulty has been experienced with the use of standard fittings and fastenings.

Gluing. Can be satisfactorily bonded using standard procedures.

Finishing. Can be painted, stained or polished. However, due to its open grain timber surfaces may need to be filled before finishing.

Uses

Decorative. Flooring, panelling, furniture, joinery, mouldings, plywood, turnery, carving.

Identification features

General characteristics

Sapwood. Sometimes, but not always, lighter in colour than heartwood.

Heartwood. Colour varies from white or yellow through to light red or pink-brown.

Texture. Rather coarse but even.

Wood structure

Growth rings. Absent.

Vessels. Moderately large with simple perforation plates, few or moderately few in number, mostly solitary, some in oblique or radial pairs or radial multiples up to four; diffuse, occasional clusters. Tyloses present; vessel deposits absent.

Parenchyma. Paratracheal parenchyma as incomplete, narrow vasicentric, aliform or occasionally confluent. Apotracheal parenchyma as irregularly spaced bands enclosing resin canals and as diffuse strands, often as short, narrow lines between the rays.

Rays. Medium to fine, may be visible without a lens; may be conspicuous on radial surfaces.

Intercellular canals. Longitudinal canals often prominent in concentric series; distinctly visible without a lens in cross-section and longitudinal section; canals plugged with white coloured resin.

Other features

Burning splinter test. Variable between species; some burn to an ash, others burn leaving no ash.

NOTE. Many species are marketed as meranti but there is considerable variation in the above features between species.

References

Hopewell, G (ed.) 2006, 'Construction timbers in Queensland: properties and specifications for satisfactory performance of construction timbers in Queensland, Class 1 and Class 10 buildings', books 1 and 2, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane.

Ilic, J 1991, 'CSIRO atlas of hardwoods', Crawford House Press, Bathurst, Australia.

Standards Australia, 2000, 'AS 2082-2000: Timber - hardwood - visually stress-graded for structural purposes', Standards Australia.

Last updated 04 August 2010