Similar to teak or ipe wood, shorea is a tropical hardwood that is used for many of the same purposes as teak, including garden furniture. Like teak and other hardwoods, shorea is resistant to damage from insects, fungus, and moisture decay. If allowed to weather, shorea turns a silver-gray color, which some people prefer to the rich, brown luster it possesses when it is treated and maintained with hardwood or teak oil.
Shorea (Shorea spp) or sal trees can be found in rainforests and parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines and the Terai region of Nepal, where there is an abundant supply. Sal trees can also be found growing in other parts of the Indian Subcontinent: south of the Himalaya, Myanmar, India and Bangladesh.
Depending on the species, shorea trees can reach up to 300 feet in height—that's about as tall as The Statue of Liberty.
Five Categories of Shorea
Shorea is often categorized into five groups of timbers:
- White merantis
- Yellow merantis
- Light red merantis
- Dark red merantis
For decking purposes, only the dark red and balau groups should be considered, advises botanist Alex Wiedenhoeft of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory (FPL).
Meranti, also known as Phillippine mahogany, is also another tropical species that is part of the genus Shorea. Although there are more than 400 species of the genus, many aren't suitable for deck construction.
An Endangered Species?
While many tropical hardwoods have become endangered due to illegal harvesting, the supply of shorea wood is strictly regulated through reforestation strategies. Mature sal trees are harvested, while younger trees are allowed to grow until they are large enough to harvest
Due to high demand, the species is about to become endangered, according to the WWF. Because of the regulations and reforestation measures that have been taken to protect shorea, the species has evaded ending up at the verge of extinction, like so many other species. Sal tree trunks are long and straight, allowing abundant light to shine through in densely forested areas. The sal blossoms in spring fill the air with a light, sweet scent. Legend has it that a sal will grow for 100 years, fall down, then lay there intact for an additional 100 years. That is, before harvesting made it too valuable to leave untouched for a century.
Also Known As: Shorea robusta, sal, sal tree, hardwood, tropical hardwood
Common Misspellings: Shoraea, shoria
Examples: Due to its strength and durability, Vanessa's shorea garden table has outlasted the other patio furniture in her backyard.