Teak – Depletion – Three of Hardwoods (Swords)

Genus: Tectona – Family: Lamiaceae


When teak appears, it is warning us that betrayal, depletion or exploitation are possible. By heeding this warning, we can be better prepared to find the wisdom and life lessons during a difficult time.

Teak has been over-exploited for 2000 years. Tectona hamiltoniana, native to Myanmar and Tectona phillippinens, native to the Philippines are both endangered species. Tectona grandis (common teak) native to India, Myanmar/Burma and Laos, is known as Burmese teak.

Founded in 1602, the Dutch East India Company colonized Burma and Indonesia. It forcibly turned virgin groves of Tectona grandis, into plantation forests to produce wood for their ships in the spice trade.By 1824, the British East India Company began over harvesting large areas of teak in Burma and India for export. In 1858, the British took control of India and Burma and declared them along with its teak as property of the British colonies.

Native teak was soon depleted due to over-harvesting. Since the post-colonial era began in the 1950s, local corporations and state-owned forestry enterprises control large-scale teak plantations. Growing teak is confined to plantations throughout India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Equatorial Africa. This practice of “plantation teak” is now spreading to Costa Rica and South America.

Teak is a beautiful tight-grained, deciduous hardwood that is water and rot resistant. Teak is a slow-growing tree that needs 30-80 years to fully mature. Its natural oils allow teakwood to withstand the elements without being treated with varnish or other oils. Teak consumption continues to rise; patio furniture is one of the primary consumer products driving the market. This increased demand on a species with limited supply continues to deplete this durable tree.

An emerging trend to release the pressure on teak is to reclaim “old teak” from boats and buildings that are no longer in service. This serves as an eco-friendly way to “reuse” this precious tree.

Message: Teak reminds us to be aware of the consequences of our actions as well as the actions of others. Betrayal, depletion and exploitation are difficult and destructive forces.  Sadness, confusion and grief are emotions that force us to take stock of our live and of those we love. Expressing and releasing our emotions is necessary if we are to continue growing and trusting. This is a time of learning difficult but valuable life lessons regarding love and loss. Teak shows us how controlling others often leads to out of control behavior that is self-destructive. Teak reminds us of the importance of creating mutually beneficial relationships.

Challenge: Depleting ourselves bytaking on more than we can handle to the point that is negatively impacting our health.