Giant chamchuree (monkey pod) tree near Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Photo credit: Luang Pu
The monkey pod tree (Albizia saman) originates from the American tropics, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, where it is known as samán in Spanish. On discovery, it was rapidly introduced to tropical and semitropical areas around the world, to include the West Indies, the Pacific islands, and Southeast Asia. In Thailand, the tree and its wood are called chamcha/jamja or chamchuree/jamjuree. Monkey pod is frequently called acacia, though true acacias are a different genus altogether, and have higher, flatter crowns and slightly different flowers.
Monkey pod wood is particularly suited for carpentry, furniture, and wood crafts. The tree grows rapidly, up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) per year, and tolerates a variety of climate conditions. Originating in the tropics, the wood is naturally resistant to moisture, rot, and insects. The wood has a deep and contrasting grain pattern which takes on an attractive finish stained or unstained. Woodcarvers find chamcha easy to work with, as it can be worked while still green or wet, with very little distortion or shrinkage as it dries.
Farmed monkey pod is also great for the environment. The wide crown provides shade and habitat, while the seed pods provide nutrients to the ground below. From planting to cultivation, a single monkey pod tree can absorb over 100 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The tree species itself is not threatened, and as a farmed tree, no naturally occurring forests are threatened from its cultivation.