ABOVE: A native of Assam in NE India tapping a Ficus elastica tree grown in one of the first commercial ” rubber plantations.” Note that the “tapper” makes multiple horizontal gouges in the bark and the liquid latex drips out naturally onto bamboo mats placed below the cuts. The natives of Assam were tapping the local Ficus elastica trees long before European plantation owners established large tea and rubber plantations in Assam in the 19th Century. Ficus elastica fig trees treated in this way could only be tapped for a year before needing a two year rest. Photo from Coventry (1906).
Nearly all the natural rubber currently produced in the world originates from Hevea braziliensis plantations in SE Asia on land previously covered by tropical rain forest. Ficus elastica is no longer grown for rubber production, because tapping is too complicated and the latex yield is inferior to rival plants such as Hevea brasiliensis or Para Rubber .