How do you get rubber from a rubber tree?

Natural Rubber – From a Gooey Sap To A Usable Material

Natural rubber used at Stern Rubber Company is made from a natural source as it is tree sap. Many consumers think that all rubber is associated with natural rubber, but natural rubber is only one type of rubber which includes different synthetic rubbers like EPDM, Silicone, Polychloroprene, Flourocarbon, Butyl, SBR, and Nitrile.

Natural rubber, which is also referred to as India rubber or caoutchouc, in scientific terms means that it is polymers of the organic compound isoprene, and is classified as an elastomer. Rubber is harvested from rubber trees, which are a family of trees that belong to the family Euphorbiace; Hevea brasilienisis or Sharinga trees are the most common. Natural rubber is extracted by method called tapping, by making incisions into the bark and collecting the fluid into vessels attached to the rubber trees. The liquid is a sticky, milky sap called latex, and requires a couple of steps before it will be sold as natural rubber.

Once the latex is collected from the plantation, is rushed to the processing plant, which prevents the latex from coagulating naturally and rendering the latex useless. At the processing plant near the plantation, the latex is heated and mixed with acid ammonia which forms rubber like curds; sulfur can be added to create a harder and more stable mixture. Much like making cheese, the rubber curds float to the surface of the liquid and is skimmed off the top and run through heavy rollers to remove excess water.
The sheets of natural rubber that are formed are cut and stacked ready for shipment to rubber molders like Stern Rubber Company.

In the early 1830’s, natural rubber was used extensively, as “rubber fever” caught on, as everybody wanted things made of the “new” waterproof gum from Brazil, and factories sprung up to meet the demand. Unfortunately, this faded away as fast as it caught on, as the public become fed up with the messy stuff which froze bone-hard in winter and would become sticky and fall apart in the heat of the summer.

Charles Goodyear is credited with the invention of the process of vulcanization of natural rubber (and the process that is used today at every rubber molding company) that ended up solving the issues that plagued the early commercial uses of gum rubber, and it gained widespread use soon afterwards.

Located in the jungles of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, the jungles of Asia, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, the rubber producing plantations create the majority of natural rubber for the world. During World War 2, with Japan occupying the majority of the jungles in south East Asia, the United States had to find an alternative source for rubber, so research was funded that created synthetic rubber which was used to win the war.

Natural rubber is a very useful rubber and is used extensively at Stern Rubber Company. Besides from being extremely waterproof; it also has high resilience and stretch, and is often used in pneumatic applications such as tires. Natural rubber is often mixed with synthetic rubber to optimize the properties of both materials. While Stern Rubber does not produce them, the application for natural rubber that most people are familiar with, is rubber bands. Some of the parts that are produced at Stern Rubber include pneumatic plumbing test plugs, gaskets, and suction cups.

By Bob Jackson Stern Rubber Company General Manager Staples, Minnesota

Tapping and coagulation

When the bark of the Hevea tree is partially cut through (tapped), a milky liquid exudes from the wound and dries to yield a rubbery film. The biological function of this latex is still obscure: it may help wound-healing by protecting the inner bark, or it may serve other biochemical functions. The latex consists of an aqueous suspension of small particles, about 0.5 micrometre in diameter, of cis-polyisoprene, a linear rubbery polymer of high molecular weight. The rubber content of the suspension is about 30 percent.

Latex dripping into a cup from a tapped rubber tree, Krabi, Thai.© Randall Hyman

Rubber trees are tapped about once every two days, yielding a cupful of latex, containing approximately 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of solid rubber, each time. The standard method of tapping is to score the tree with a knife for half the circumference of the trunk, slanting the cut down from left to right at an angle of 30° starting at the highest point convenient to the tapper. Each subsequent cut is made immediately below its predecessor. Trees are often rested for a period after heavy tapping. Production commences when a tree is 5 or 6 years old; with care, the tree’s useful life may extend to more than 20 years. With trees cultivated at a density of 375 per hectare (150 per acre), approximately 2,500 kg of rubber can be produced per hectare per year (that is, approximately one ton per acre per year).

Latex being extracted from a rubber tree.Neil Rabinowitz/Corbis

After collection of the tapped latex, rubber is recovered from emulsion by coagulation with formic acid, creating crumbs that resemble curds of milk. The crumbs are washed, dried between rolls, and compacted into blocks 67 by 33 by 18 cm (26 by 13 by 7.5 inches) in size and weighing 33.3 kg (73 pounds). The blocks are then wrapped in polyethylene sheets and packed into one-ton crates for shipping.

Sheets of natural rubber coagulated from latex being passed between rollers, Krabi, Thai.© Randall Hyman

Other production is as smoked sheet, where the coagulum is pressed into thin sheets that are washed and then dried over a smoky wood fire. The smoke contains natural fungicides that protect against mold growth and impart a characteristic amber colour. Dried sheets are packed into 110-kg (250-pound) bales for shipping.

  • Sheets of natural rubber hanging from racks in a smokeroom for final drying, Krabi, Thai.© Randall Hyman
  • Smoked sheets of natural rubber being inspected and trimmed before being packed into bales, Krabi, Thai.© Randall Hyman

About 10 percent of all natural rubber is shipped as latex, concentrated to a rubber content of approximately 60 percent and used for making dipped goods such as surgical gloves, prophylactics, and toys.

Top Twelve Garden Plants to Grow from Cuttings

For the avid gardener, perhaps more precisely, the plant addict, getting back to our roots is common sense. How was it that our ancestors had such lovely gardens when there were no horticulture groups, garden clubs or ornamental plant shops nearby?
Long ago, the most important plant to grow was one that produced food for the family. Ornamental plants were for the wealthy city dwellers. This did not prevent early settlers from creating beauty in their new surroundings. Whether it was on the dusty plains or a high rocky mountain top, green foliage and colorful blooms were meant to be enjoyed and shared with others.

Before there were plant nurseries and greenhouses in every town, plants were shared with family and neighbors. Gardeners collected seeds, divided roots, dug and separated bulbs and took cuttings from the plants growing in their yard. These were then shared with other gardeners who did the same thing a few years later.

Most gardeners probably did not know the terms we now have for the different types of cuttings. If they had been coined already, I doubt that many would have heard them anyway. It is helpful to know which parts of the plant you need to cut in order to root a new one. For the plants listed here, we will use these cuttings listed below.

Herbaceous or Softwood

These types of cuttings are just like they sound, soft wood.
Your cutting will be green or newer growth.

Semi-Hardwood

This type of cutting will be from more mature, woody stems.

A few tips for ensuring success:

Prepare pots in advance

For rooting cuttings, pots do not need to be very large. I typically use one gallon pots. Sterilize pots by dipping them in a solution of bleach water. One part bleach to nine parts water. Allow to air dry before filling with soil. When pots are dry, fill within two inches of top with your choice soil mixture. Water soil. It should be damp but not soggy.

Use a stick, pencil or any similar size object to poke holes into the soil for the cuttings. Simply jab straight down. Three cuttings of most plants will fit nicely in a one gallon pot. Remember, they are not going to live here; they are only beginning their life in this little pot.

Soil Mixture

I would recommend a soil mixture of one part sand to one part peat or good quality potting soil. Perlite can be added if using a peat/sand mix.

Cut and prepare stem pieces

Cuttings should be approximately eight inches long. A little more or less will not matter, so there is no need to get out the tape measure. Cut several from each plant in case some do not root. This way, you have a better chance of having rooted plants. The exception to this is Brugmansia cuttings, these should be at least twelve inches long.

Remove leaves from bottom of the stem. Allow the top four, or so, leaves to remain attached to stem. Slice the end at an angle. This is especially true for the woody cuttings. You may also want to lightly scrape the sides of the cutting near the bottom. Have a glass of water nearby, drop the cuttings into it until you are ready to put them in your soil mixture.

Dip the cuttings into a good quality rooting hormone. These are available at nurseries, greenhouses and can also be found in most large home-store garden centers.

Stick the cuttings into the holes you poked in the soil, using hands, firm soil around cuttings. Now, finish off by giving them a light misting of water.

Keep cuttings evenly moist while they are rooting. When the cutting begins to put on new leaf buds, you will know that it has begun to root. The time line varies depending on type of plant you are rooting. This is not the time to snatch it out of its little pot! Leave it until several mature leaves have developed. Once this occurs, you can be certain you have good root growth happening. I leave mine in these pots for a full season. This allows them to grow a very healthy root system for planting out in the garden.

Rather than taking them from their one gallon pot directly into the garden, you can transplant them singly into larger pots and let them grow for a full year or more. Doing this will give the new plants time to grow a large root ball before you set them out in the garden. Whether you decide to set them out after three months or wait a full year, you have succeeded in growing a new plant from the mother plant. What a great feeling that is.


Stem cuttings with ends cut on an angle.


Cuttings placed in glass of water.

My top twelve picks to root from cuttings are:

Type of Plant Type of Cutting
Althea (Hibiscus syriacus) semi-hardwood
Angel Trumpet (Brugmansia) semi-hardwood
Blackcurrant Sage (Salvia microphylla) herbaceous
Bolivian Fuchsia (Fuchsia boliviana) semi-hardwood
Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) semi-hardwood
Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) semi-hardwood

Early Forsythia (Forsythia ovata)

semi-hardwood
Florida Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) semi-hardwood
Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) semi-hardwood
Mophead Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) semi-hardwood

Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum)

semi-hardwood
Weigela (Weigela coraeensis) semi-hardwood
Here is a gardenia that was rooted in soil. See the root system and all the new leaves? It is only about 3 months old.
A healthy example of gardenia which was rooted from a small cutting approximately four years ago.

We have only scratched the surface of ways to propagate plants from your garden. Following are some other examples.

Hardwood cuttings
Leaf cuttings
Root division
Simple layering
Tip layering
Air layering

All are good ways to increase your plant population. It pays to experiment with different methods to see what works best in your garden. Some plants simply will not root by cuttings. The good thing is, you can always try something else and sooner or later, you will have new plant babies. There will be failures along the way but each time we fail, a lesson is learned. The next cutting we try is sure to be the one that ‘takes’.

Here is a well rooted Brugmansia cutting.

A close up of rooting mixture for the Brugmansia

All plants listed are ones I have personally rooted from cuttings and information on the process is from my own experience with these cuttings.

Happy Gardening

All Photographs in this article belong to the author.

Brugmansia cuttings depicted in this article were rooted by Dave’s Garden member, Ginger_H. Thank you, Ginger.

For more information on garden terms, check out Gardenology.

How To Start A Rubber Tree Plant: Propagation Of A Rubber Tree Plant

Rubber trees are hardy and versatile houseplants, which leads many people to wonder, “How do you get a start of a rubber tree plant?” Propagating rubber tree plants is easy and means that you will have starts for all of your friends and family. Keep reading to learn how to propagate a rubber tree so that you can give your friends a free rubber tree plant.

Propagate a Rubber Tree Plant with Cuttings

Rubber tree plants can grow very tall and this means an indoor rubber tree occasionally needs to be pruned. After pruning, don’t throw out those cuttings; instead, use them to propagate a rubber tree plant.

Propagate a rubber tree plant from cuttings starts with getting a good cutting. The cutting should be about 6 inches long and have at least two sets of leaves.

The next step in how to start a rubber tree plant from cuttings is to remove the bottom set of leaves from the cutting. If you would like, you can dip the cutting in rooting hormone.

Then, place the rubber tree cutting in moist but well-draining potting soil. Cover the cutting with either a jar or clear plastic, but make sure that the intact leaves do not touch the glass or plastic. If you need to, you can cut the remaining leaves in half, removing the half that is not attached to the stem.

Place the rubber tree plant cutting in a warm place that is lit by only indirect light. In two to three weeks, the rubber tree cutting should have developed roots and the covering can be removed.

Using Air Layering for Propagation of a Rubber Tree Plant

Another way to propagate a rubber tree plant is by using air layering. This method basically leaves the “cutting” on the rubber tree while it is rooting.

The first step in propagating a rubber tree with air layering is to choose a stem to make into a new plant. The stem should be at least 12 inches long, but can be longer if you would like.

Next, remove any leaves immediately above and below the area where you will be rooting the stem, then take a sharp knife and carefully remove a 1-inch wide strip of bark that goes all the way around the stem. You should have a “naked” ring that goes around the stem of the rubber tree plant. Remove all of the soft tissue in that ring, but leave the hard center wood intact.

After this, dust the ring with rooting hormone and cover the ring with damp sphagnum moss. Secure the sphagnum moss to the stem with a plastic covering. Make sure the moss is completely covered. The plastic will help keep the sphagnum moss damp as well.

In two to three weeks, the stem of the rubber tree should have developed roots at the ring. After it has developed roots, cut the rooted stem from the mother plant and repot the new plant.

Rubber Plant Propagation : How To Root A Rubber Plant From Cuttings

A step-by-step guide is given below on how to propagate a rubber plant tree from cuttings to easily root and make new rubber plants. Rubber tree (Ficus elastica) plants, also known as Rubber fig, rubber bush, rubber plant, or Indian rubber bush, grow best in warm and bright conditions. They look great with their dark colored glossy ovate leaves and tree like growth habit and are best for growing indoors.
I have grown many rubber tree plant from stem cuttings and gifted them to my friends. Propagating a rubber plant needs patience, but not difficult.

Propagation of a Rubber Plant From Cuttings

Rubber Plant Care | Prevent Rubber plant leaves falling off
My indoor rubber tree plant grew very tall, touching the ceiling, so it needed to be pruned (how to prune a rubber plant). I thought to prune it at the top and plant in soil or water to root the cuttings. Is it possible to have new rubber trees like this? If yes, then how to take a cutting from the rubber plant? Earlier, I tried to re-root the cuttings 3-4 times, but failed. However, now I can make new rubber plants by stem cuttings with 100% success rate with the following procedure.

Rubber plant propagation is quite easy. Keep reading to learn on propagating a rubber tree so that you can give your friends a free rubber plant.
I chopped off the top growing branch and made cuttings out of it to re-root new rubber plants.

When to re-root

Spring to summer is the best time to propagate a runner plant when the tree is actively growing.

Preparing Soil For Rubber Plant Propagation

  1. Fill a small pot with a well draining soil. I mix potting mix with river sand in equal quantity to make the soil for propagation. Water well and press the top soil until the water stops coming out from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
  2. Push a stick in the soil and take it out to make a planting hole, slightly larger than the stick diameter. Keep the pot aside in shade.

How To Take A Cutting From A Rubber Plant

  1. The next important step on how to propagate a rubber tree plant from cuttings is to take a good cutting from the tip of a vigorous rubber plant stem. Tip cutting is easy to root.
  2. Cut a 6 inches long branch from approximately half inch below a leaf set, having at least two sets of leaves (nodes) of length 4 inch or less. Remove the bottom leaves and cut the other leaves into half. When cut, the rubber plant oozes a milky sap, which is irritating, so wash immediately if it comes in contact with the skin or eyes. Wash off the milky white sap from the cuts with running water.

Steps For Propagating A Rubber Plant

Propagation of rubber tree is similar to the propagation of bougainvillea propagation, blueberries propagation, and many other plants.

Rooted cuttings of rubber tree plant

  1. Dust the leaf less end of the rubber cutting in a rooting hormone or cinnamon powder and insert it in the hole (bottom node in the soil). Put soil around to fill the hole. Do not water.
  2. Put the pot in a clear polythene bag and tie the top of the bag so that the cutting remains in high humidity environment.
  3. Place the pot in a warm place in indirect light. In 3-4 weeks, the rubber tree cutting will develop roots. Gently tug on the base of the stem and feel for resistance, which indicates that some roots have formed.
  4. You may see the roots coming out from the hole at the bottom of the pot.
  5. At this stage remove the covering, but still keep the pot in shade. Water lightly.
  6. Wait for the new leaf to grow fully. Shift the pot in a place which receives morning sun. Keep there for 4-5 weeks, keep the soil damp. Then transplant the plant into a bigger pot.

Note
You can start 3-4 rubber plant cuttings in the same pot and later on separate each one with care when new shoots emerge. I rooted more than 4 cuttings in the same pot.

Air Layering for Propagation of a Rubber Tree

Air layering is another method to propagate a rubber tree plant. In this method of rooting, you do not cut the stem but leave the cutting on the tree while it is rooting.

  1. The first step in propagating a rubber tree with air layering is to choose a stem, at least 12 inches long.
  2. Choose a healthy portion of the stem where you wish to root the stem and remove any leaves immediately above and below the portion.
  3. Carefully remove 1 inch wide strip of bark around the stem using a sharp knife.
  4. Scrap all the soft part in the ring, leaving the hard wood intact in the center.
  5. Dust the ring with rooting hormone and cover it with moistened sphagnum moss.
  6. Cover the sphagnum moss fully with a polythene covering.
  7. New roots will grow in 3-4 weeks time in the covered ring of the stem of the rubber tree. Cut the rooted stem from the mother plant and repot the new plant.
  8. Variation: Make a cut about halfway through the stem and insert a toothpick to keep it open. Dust some rooting hormone in the cut and cover it with moistened sphagnum moss and wrap in a polythene cover.

How To Transplant a Rubber Tree Plant?

if your rubber plant is growing in a pot for a few years, its root will start to emerge from the bottom holes. At this stage, you should transplant it into a new pot.Take out the plant carefully and transplant it into the new pot of the next size (1 inch larger diameter only). Use new potting soil to fill the plant.

Watch YouTube Videos on Rubber Tree Plant

Youtube Video on propagate rubber plant from cutting
Youtube Video on how to grow rubber plant from stem cutting in Hindi
Youtube Video on how to root a rubber plant from cuttings
Youtube Video on how to care a rubber plant
Youtube Video on how to grow rubber plant in Water
Youtube Video on how to prune a rubber plant to make it bushy
Plants that grow from softwood cuttings
Simple method to grow plants from cuttings

Make sure your plant healthy (leggy or too fall is fine) before you start this process. My plant was well-watered a couple days before I began the propagating.

Apply the right amount of pressure.

Apply pressure, but not too much, when you’re making the cuts. You want to cut deep enough so the new roots can easily emerge. Get the tough layer off but not dig in so deep that it prevents the plant from carrying the nutrients & water to the top. I basically took 1/8 to 1/4″ of the hard top layer off my Rubber Plant stem.

There are 2 other ways to make the cuts, that I know of. The 1st is to make 2 – v notch cuts on opposite sides. 2nd is to make a 3-4″ slit up 1 side. I like the band method because there’s more surface for the roots to emerge (in my opinion anyway!).

Watch out for the sap!

Be careful of the sap that emits from a Rubber Plant as it could irritate you. I’ve gotten it on my skin & it never has bothered me. Never get it on your face & especially not near your eyes or mouth. Also, it can stain your floor, clothes, etc immediately. That’s why I kept a rag handy.

When figuring out where to make the cuts, keep in mind that some plants grow fast. I made my cut almost 2′ down because Rubber Trees grow fast & I don’t want to have to do this again for at least 3 years.

Keep the moss moist.

Don’t let the moss dry out. Those newly formed roots need to be kept moist.

You can also us the air layering technique for these houseplants.

They include the Weeping Fig, Fiddleleaf Fig, Dracaenas, Dumb Cane, Umbrella Tree, Dwarf Umbrella Tree, and the Split Leaf Philodendron.

The air layering process can be a bit intimidating the 1st time you try it but it’s really not hard at all. It’s a tried and true method of propagation, especially for those houseplants which grow tall and or wide and get out of hand. Plus, I’ll get two plants from one!

Happy Gardening,

Nell Foster

JoyUsgarden.com

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