Tropical tree (Ficus elastica) of the mulberry family. The rubber plant is large in its native Southeast Asia and other warm areas; elsewhere it is commonly grown indoors as a potted plant. The plant has large, thick, oblong leaves and pairs of figlike fruits along its branches. The milky sap, or latex, was once an important source of an inferior natural rubber. Young plants available in the florist's trade are durable and grow well under less-than-ideal indoor conditions. Some cultivated varieties have broader, darker green leaves; others are variegated. Seealso rubber tree.
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The Pará rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis), often simply called rubber tree, is a tree belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae and the most economically important member of the genus Hevea. It is of major economic importance because its sap-like extract (known as latex) can be collected and is the primary source of natural rubber.
There had been an attempt made, in 1873, to grow rubber outside Brazil. After some effort, twelve seedlings were germinated at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. These were sent to India for cultivation, but died. A second attempt was then made, some 70,000 seeds being sent to Kew in 1875. About 4% of these germinated, and in 1876 about 2000 seedlings were sent, in Wardian cases, to Ceylon, and 22 sent to the Botanic Gardens in Singapore. Once established outside its native country, rubber was extensively propagated in the British colonies. Rubber trees were brought to the botanical gardens at Buitenzorg, Java in 1883. By 1898, a rubber plantation had been established in Malaya, and today most rubber tree plantations are in Southeast Asia and some also in tropical Africa. Efforts to cultivate the tree in its native South America were unsatisfactory.