Prepared by Pius Piskaut
, Kipiro Damas
and Phille Daur
1. Biology Department, University of Papua New Guinea, P.O
Box 320, Waigani, National Capital District, Papua New Guinea.
Tel: +675 326 7154, email:
2. Senior Botanist, Forest Biology Program, Papua New Guinea Forest Research Institute,
Tel: +675 472 4188, email:
Taun or Pometia pinnata is a widely distributed timber species on the island of New
taxonomic revision there are eight different forms recorded in the Asia-Pacific region.
In Papua New Guinea four forms have recorded; f. pinnata, f. tomentosa, f. glabra,
and f. repanda. However, there are evidence indicating another form (form nov.) that
resembles both f. pinnata and f. tomentosa.
Taun is one of the highly priced tropical hardwood timbers on the market. Current
exported. China is by far the biggest importer of saw/veneer logs. Australia and New
Zealand are the main importer of processed taun timbers. There are no firm cases of
illegal logging of taun although it was the case 20 years ago. However, there are
minor discrepancies in shipment that may be categorized as illegal activities. The
monitoring by SGS on behalf of the PNGFA has successfully minimized such
discrepancies. The current analysis of taun concludes that, although there are laws,
policies and regulating mechanisms already in place, these must be strengthen where
necessary, then implemented by all stakeholders to manage this very important
Key words: Taun, Pometia pinnata, taxonomy, species, forms, ecology, timbers,
distribution, market, policies, Act.
We would like to acknowledge WWF (PNG) and especially the Project Coordinator,
write-up. To Ms Fanny Yaninen of WWF, without your expertise, we would not have
created a proper distribution map of Pometia – thank you! We also give gratitude to
the following people who commented and gave useful information on the first draft:
Mr. Lyndon Pangkali of WWF Indonesia- Sahul Program, Mr. Roy Banka, PNG
Forest Research Institute; Miss Zola Sangga, WWF – PNG; Mr. Gewa Gamoga, PNG
Forest Authority; Mr. Bazakie Baput, FPCD –PNG; Mr. Israel F Bewang, Masters
Scholar, ANU; Mr. Biatus Bito, WWF – Transfly Ecoregion; and Dr. Mex Peki, PNG
Forest Research Institute. Lastly, thank you to TRAFFIC (Oceania) who funded the
rainforest showing two Pometia or taun trees, These can be singled out by the reddish
or rufous crown; bottom right – stem of Pometia (Photos by Mr. Ted Mamu – WWF
PNG); top right – seedling of Pometia pinnata f. glabra (Photo by D. Kipiro –
Table of Contents
2.1 Description Of The Genus
2.2 Description Of The Forms
List of tables
Table 1. Enumeration of Pometia pinnata within the Managalas Plateau, Northern
Table 2. Comparison of merchantable taun volume per hectare (m
/ha) in productive
low altitude forests on uplands and other low altitude forest types for major timber
resource provinces (data extracted from Hammermaster and Saunders,1995, otherwise
Table 3. Export of processed taun from 2001 to 2004……………………..
Table 4. Taun export discrepancies in volume exported January and March, 2005.. 25
List of Figures
Figure 1. Distribution of Pometia pinnata……………………………….
Figure 3. Diameter distribution of Pometia pinnata at Managalas Plataeu, Northern
Figure 4. Percentage value of taun exported from 1997 to 2005………..
Figure 5. Percentage revenue contribution of major timber species ……
Figure 6. Trade flow in international markets of taun logs from PNG…..
Forestry is a key sector, which, if properly managed, can continuously generate
revenue for the people of Papua New Guinea. This is because forest resources are
renewable national assets. This long held view is echoed by many people in the
government and private sectors. Furthermore, this view is clearly stipulated in the
country’s constitution and defined approaches to forest management were legislated
in the Forest Act 1991, as amended in 1993, 1996, 2000, and 2005, and the
Environment Act 2000. However, there are still grey areas that have led to general
abuses to forest resources such as illegal activities and non compliance to the Acts.
While political interference, corruption, literal flaws in the Act (misinterpretation of
the Act), and lack of human resources to implement forest policies appear to be key
issues to sound forest management, information on major forest resources is also a
key factor in terms of drawing up proper forest policies to safeguard the timber
resources for future generations.
There are at least 100 native timber species occurring in mixed lowland and montane
forests of Papua New Guinea (PNG), although taxonomic determination of timber
species is inadequate, resulting in lumping of species under one genus. Of this total at
least 30 timber species are commonly logged, and exported as round or processed
logs. Pometia pinnata is one such timber species that is highly favored both in
domestic and international markets. It is commonly known as taun, and has many uses
especially in buildings, panel, veneer, joinery, furniture, cabinet work, boat building,
moulding, interior finish, door, window frames, fibre-board, billiard tables and tool
handles (Eddowes, 1977). The fruits are also edible.
This report reviews the status of Pometia and its trade in PNG. It draws together
scattered information (published and unpublished) available on this species. The
report does not pretend to present all information regarding Pometia. Nevertheless, it
is envisaged that the information herein would open up our understanding of this
species or stimulate further research into the scientific and trade aspects of this
The genus Pometia in the family Sapindaceae is known by two species, P. pinnata
and P. ridleyi. Pometia ridleyi is distributed throughout Malesia except for Singapore
and P.pinnata is found in Ceylon, the Adamans and throughout Malesia to Samoa. In
PNG, P.pinnata is common throughout the lowlands, and occurs on wide range of
vegetation and soil types (Figure 1). P. pinnata is known by 8 different forms of
which 4 have been recorded in PNG (Figure 2). These are f. pinnata, f. glabra, f.
Papua New Guinea for its sweet succulent fruits as well as for it's timber quality.
Several authors have worked on the genus, the latest of them being Jacobs (1962).
The recognition of forms is not accepted by most foresters and the logging industry
because the differences between various forms had not been adequately investigated.
Much confusion exists in the distinctions between f. pinnata and f. tomentosa. The
work on the genus by Jacobs, 1962 revealed that 4 different forms pinnata, f. glabra.
f. tomentosa, f. repanda were known in Papua New Guinea. Among them, two have
been commonly exported for timber, f. glabra and f. pinnata. The form tomentosa on
the other hand has also been logged in area where it is seen.
Of the four forms in PNG, it was observed that the f. tomentosa and f. pinnata are
leaflet characters was consistent throughout their respective localities. Recent work on
the species by Damas, 1993 noted in the New Guinea Islands region (NGI) that f.
pinnata and f. tomentosa had other relatives, similar in leaflet morphology but
differing in their bole lengths and size of the fruits. The fruits of these relatives are
large, somewhat as big as normal chicken eggs and have thicker arillodes which are
edible unlike those of f. pinnata, f. tomentose, and f. repanda. All have some
morphological similarities during their seedling and sapling stages, they differ
morphologically as they mature
When the mature trees were observed, it was noted
characters. Form pinnata and its NGI relative more or less maintain the leaflet
characters but the fruit sizes differ. The form repanda was distinguished by the
coriaceous texture of the leaflets and its leaflet shape and more or less repand
margins. The type P. pinnata f. glabra (Jacobs, 1962) seemed to vary in various
localities in terms of bole length, crown formation and fruit size and color. The flesh
Figure 1. Distribution of Pometia pinnata. The dark shaded area depicts absence of
2.1 Description of the Genus
Pometia J.R. & G. Forst.
Pometia includes trees attaining big sizes often with large buttresses up to 1.5m or
tinge,(hirsute) with distinct rather stiff or bristly hairs. Leaves compound, paripinnate
up to 1 m long with 4 to 17 or more pair of leaflets. Leaflets coriaceous to herbaceous,
often increased in size, on average 12 to 30 x 4 to 10 cm, sometimes larger, venations
distinct with midribs and veins more prominent beneath; blade assymetrical, with
acroscopial half being wider and more extended at the base. Inflorescence terminal or
rarely axillary. Flowers polygamous. Male flowers about 4 mm across; calyx cup
shaped with 5–8 lobes, with erect teeth, petals 5, rarely as long as the calyx lobes; disc
thick, yellow, lacking ovary; stamens 5 – 8, early stage is sessile, later long exerted,
about 5-6 mm long. Female flowers about 6-7mm; calyx lobes 5, petals 5, roundish,
slightly exceeding the calyx lobes and wider than these, white; disk thick, yellow;
ovay on disc 2-3 lobed surrounded by 5-8 staminodes; style 1 in the center of the
ovary lobes, 5 mm long; stigma 2. Fruit 2-lobed, only one develops (rarely3) to egg
shape, up to 5.0 x 3.0 cm, some are edible depending on the thickness of the flesh
(aril) covering the seed.
Distribution: Pometia is a pantropic genus. Its distribution extends from Ceylon, the
Adamans throughout Malesia to Samoa. Few scattered in N. Siam, S. Yunan, Indo-
China and Formosa.
Ecology: Typical rain forest genus of low altitude, generally occurring below 500 m,
rarely to 1,000 m. (highest record: 1,700 m in Atej) on limestone or loamy soils. Not
so dominant in the forest in West Malaysia; in Malaya mainly riverine; in Borneo and
Sumatra occasionally in fresh water swamp forests; in New Guinea not seldom
dominant in forests partly under human influence.
is well known for its witches broom which occur nearly in all the taxa (species and
forms) that can be recognized from long distances. Witches – brooms originate from a
leaflet (Bos 1975). The malformation is caused by viruses. This characteristic also
appears on inflorescences.
Key to Pometia trees in Papua New Guinea
Fruits having thicker aril (edible flesh)
leaflets overlapping, later elliptic …P.pinnata forma glabra
with thin aril (not edible flesh)
……………………………………………..P. pinnata form tomentosa
4.0 Leaflets asymmetrical, distinctly falcate. Leaflets over lapping the
parallel at the tip …………………P. pinnata form repanda
2.2 Description of the Forms
Tree, 20–30 m tall; twigs terete, hairy, when older completely glabrous or almost so,
symmetrical, oblong to elliptic, rarely ovate, 20–25 x 7–8 cm, first pair usually sub –
orbicular to elliptic, clasping the rachis–like stipules; base oblique, shallowly cordate;
tip acute, sometimes acuminate; inflorescence terminal in glabrous or finely
pubescent panicles, 30–50 am long; fruits lobes 5–6 cm across, flattened to globose,
usually only one lobe is fully developed, 1.5–3 .5 x 1–3 cm ; exocarp leathery, inner
fibrous–meaty, white or reddish; aril fleshy, white, pleasant tasting; seed irregular red-
brown with a large hilum.
Field characters: heavily buttress, thin or sharply flanged, up to 3m or more; bole
often not so straight, 50 –60 cm diameter, rarely rounded reaching up to 20 m before
the first limb; bark more or less smooth, dark brown, branching low with heavily
Distribution: Same as that of the genus. In Papua New Guinea occurring in almost all
Ecology: Predominent in primary forest on all kinds of soil, river banks or well
Note: Tree having long straight bole lengths, very good volume of sawn timber can be
extracted from. The fruits with thin aril (flesh) so they are not much favoured.
Pometia pinnata form tomentosa (Bl.) Jacobs
Tree, 30–40m tall, twigs terete, rusty– brown hairy; leaves 20–30cm long; leaflets 5-7
pairs per rachis; blade falcate, assymetrical, sometimes ovate to lanceolate, 15–25 x 6-
9 cm; mature leaflets glabrous, junvenile leaflets pubescent; margin toothed but
sometimes faintly; base cordate to obtuse, not overlapping the rachis, apex acute;
Inflorescence densely pubescent, 20-40 cm long pendulous; fruit 3–3.5 x 2–2.5 cm ,
Distribution (Based on the material studied): Bulolo in the Morobe province and
Kerema in the Gulf province.
Ecology: Primary lowland rain forest on alluvial flats or foothills and hilly slopes up
to 200 m.
Notes: Buttress bluntly flanged, rarely up to 2 m or more; usually straight, rounded
bole up to 30 m before the first limb; outer bark light brown, rough surface, branching
less dense but usually heavily foliage lighter or somewhat yellowish green.
Tree 17–40 m tall, dbh 60–70 cm. Branchlets when young brown-puberulose. . Leaf
coriaceous, 8-12 pairs, 4 mm stalked; the first (basal) pair like auricles, up to 3 cm
long and suborbicular to elliptic, persistent; the largest more or less 25-32 x 8 (-13)
cm, parallel sided; base subcordate to sometimes blunt, top sub acuminate; midrib and
nerves always glabrous above, often sparsely puberulose beneath, nerves 18-25 pairs;
marginal teeth minute to sometimes coarse. Inflorescence stiff and rather lax 30 –60
cm long, rather densely brown-pubescent, the main branches subtended by 1-2 pairs
of reduced suborbicular leaflets like auricles, repeatedly branched. Fruit more or less
3.5 x 2.5 –3 cm.
Distribution: In Papua New Guinea occurring almost in all coastal regions as that of
with thicker aril and are edible.
Pometia pinnata form repanda Jacobs
Tree 23-35 m tall, dbh 40-75 cm. Innovation long glossy–brown pubescent, very early
glabrescent. Branchlets not or shallowly grooved, 5mm thick. Leaf rachis slender, 13–
27 cm (- 60 cm), with 6–8 leaflets on either side. Leaflets subcoriaceous, the first
(basal) pair up to 1 cm long and falcate, the next 1–2 pairs somewhat longer but
generally the lower leaflets caducous
the other leaflets mostly not overlapping one
sometimes parallel–sided; base acute to rarely sub cordate, top gradually acuminate;
nerves 13–17 pairs, reddish tinged; marginal incisions 1 – 2 mm deep, rather repand
than dentate; surface s glabrous all over. Inflorescence stiff, more or less sparsely
woolly pubescent, 15–30 cm long, rather densely branched, the branches fairly short,
not subtented by reduced leaflets, Fruits 2–2.5 x 1.5 cm.