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Sir Henry Alexander Wickham was a British explorer. He later claimed in publicity that he was responsible for stealing about 70,000 seeds from the rubber-bearing tree, Hevea brasiliensis, in the Santarém area of Brazil in 1876. However there was, in fact, no law at the time forbidding their export and it would appear that Wickham was trying to make his actions more exciting than they really were. These seeds he accompanied to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, from where seedlings were dispatched to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malaysia, Africa, Batavia, and other tropical destinations, thus dooming the Amazonian rubber boom.

Rubber plantations in Asia were much more efficient and outproduced Brazil. This was because the Asian rubber plantations were organized and well suited for production on a commercial scale whereas in Brazil the process of latex gathering from forest trees remained a difficult extractive process: rubber tappers worked natural rubber groves in the southern Amazon forest, and rubber tree densities were almost always low, as a consequence of high natural forest diversity. Moreover, experiments in cultivating rubber trees in plantations in the Amazon showed them to be vulnerable to South American rubber tree leaf blight fungus and other diseases and pests.

In spite of decades of research in selecting highly productive and disease resistant rubber trees, many commercial rubber trees throughout the world are descended from the seeds Wickham took to Joseph Dalton Hooker in London....
 
 
Sir Henry Alexander Wickham was a British explorer. He later claimed in publicity that he was responsible for stealing about 70,000 seeds from the rubber-bearing tree, Hevea brasiliensis, in the Santarém area of Brazil in 1876. However there was, in fact, no law at the time forbidding their export and it would appear that Wickham was trying to make his actions more exciting than they really were. These seeds he accompanied to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, from where seedlings were dispatched to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Malaysia, Africa, Batavia, and other tropical destinations, thus dooming the Amazonian rubber boom.

Rubber plantations in Asia were much more efficient and outproduced Brazil. This was because the Asian rubber plantations were organized and well suited for production on a commercial scale whereas in Brazil the process of latex gathering from forest trees remained a difficult extractive process: rubber tappers worked natural rubber groves in the southern Amazon forest, and rubber tree densities were almost always low, as a consequence of high natural forest diversity. Moreover, experiments in cultivating rubber trees in plantations in the Amazon showed them to be vulnerable to South American rubber tree leaf blight fungus and other diseases and pests.

In spite of decades of research in selecting highly productive and disease resistant rubber trees, many commercial rubber trees throughout the world are descended from the seeds Wickham took to Joseph Dalton Hooker in London....

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