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Overview of Tabin Trees & Woody Plants
including past logging & succession / regeneration


The secondary forests are dominated by Euphorbiaceae such as Macaranga spp., gingers, fern's and other secondary elements.

Pteridophyte (fern) studies in Tabin (e.g. Suzuki, 1999) have to date identified more than 65 species from 19 families. It is anticipated that many more fern species will be revealed as studies continue.

Ground herbs have recently been surveyed in Tabin by Magintan et al (1999) and they present a list of species collected during the 1998 Tabin Scientific Expedition.

Dipterocarp forest, Raleigh Trail km. 10.5. ICN photo
The dipterocarps share space with thousands of other plant species and other families that are notable for their species diversity include the Annonaceae (papaya family; 71 species), Euphorbiaceae (spurge, rubber plant & macaranga family; 97 species) Lauraceae (laurel family - includes cinnamons, ironwoods, sassafras, avocados; 53 species), Leguminosae (nitrogen fixing trees; 34 species), Meliaceae (45 species), Rubiaceae (gardenia, coffee, quinine family; 57 species), Sapindaceae (rambutan, soap berry family; 28 species) and the Zingiberaceae (gingers; 17species).

The Moraceae (fig trees; 22 species) are important food plants for wildlife and the strangler figs are among the impressive floral inhabitants of the tropical jungle.

Large fig tree; Ficus Benjamina next to the Tabin Wildlife Visitor Centre
 The ironwood of Borneo (Eusideroxylon swageri; a member of the laurel family) is locally known as “belian and this genus is among most sought after wood trees in Borneo. is localised within the reserve, especially in the middle and north-western areas. and its preservation in Tabin is an important aspect of the Reserve.

Vast numbers of the plant species of Tabin have special uses for humans and animals. Some medicinal plants and plants that serve as food plants for animals are listed below. Numerous links and references cited in the bibliography and links sections lead to information about Lepidoptera food and host species, horticultural topics and other floral matters relevant to Tabin.


Selective logging of hardwoods occurred in the majority of the Tabin reserve area from the mid-1960's until 1989 when all logging ceased. Only the central core area and the seven VJR's, amounting to 10% of the total area, were exempted from this treatment. Apart from the relatively small number of large logs removed, up to 40% of the original vegetation was removed or destroyed by the harvesting process. This has been replaced by secondary forest that is characterised by grasses and herbs on the cleared tracks and skid trails and shrubs, climbers and pioneer trees, such as Macaranga species, elsewhere.

Secondary forest generally has an open canopy and dense vegetation near ground level. This contrasts with virgin jungle which tends to have a dense canopy and fairly open vegetation patterns near ground level. In secondary forest the total number of plant species is low relative to virgin jungle but many animal species thrive in areas as they proceed through the stages leading from freshly disrupted forest to climatic climax primary forest status.

Since legal logging ceased at the end of 1989 there have been sporadic instances of illegal logging but these were discovered and stopped before they became extensive. It appears that immediately after logging vegetation in severely damaged areas is mostly less than 10m tall, dominated by Leguminosae, Rubiaceae, Euphorbiaceae and gingers while areas with lesser damage are populated by scattered large trees up to 50m tall and a relatively dense under-storey of saplings. Included among these are tall Koompassia excelsa (Leguminosae trees).

Along abandoned logging roads the periphery is dominated by Euphorbiaceae, especially Macaranga spp., and the roads quickly become overgrown with fast growing plants such as sedges, gingers, creepers, climbers and shrubs such as Callicarpa longifolia.

Many of the plants involved in forest succession are favoured food plants for a host of animal species. As habitat types and niches develop and evolve areas undergoing succession are fruitful sites for the observation of wildlife.