Neem - other uses

Neem is a multipurpose tree. Among other things, its wood is used for timber, its bark for fibre and its seeds for fuel. Neem trees are planted to provide shade and prevent soil erosion.

Crafts

Neem is in the same plant family as mahogany. Its wood can be used as a substitute for true mahogany because it is heavy and similarly red in colour.

In south India neem wood is used for making furniture such as cabinets and the base of drawers. It is an aromatic wood, also used for ornamental ceilings and panelling and is easily carved into toys, figures and small boxes. A really useful property of neem timber is that it repels pests such as termites. This makes it ideal for making packing cases and chests in which to store clothes. The timber is very durable so is good for making carts, agricultural tools, bridges and for boat building. Neem is also a good plant used for making poles because it will re-sprout after it is cut, and is thus easily pollarded or coppiced.

A photograph of rope made using neem fibre housed in Kew's Economic Botany Collection.
Image: This rope and fibre was produced from neem fibres in Madras, India.

Gum from the bark of the neem tree is used as an adhesive for traditional Indian mural paintings. It is a clear, bright, amber-coloured material that blackens with age. It is mixed with black and blue dyes to provide a base for pigments to be painted on.



The bark also yields a fibre that is woven into rope. Neem seeds can be used to make hardboard.



Fuels

The oil is burned in lamps throughout India. The seed, husk and wood are all also used for fuel. Neem makes a good charcoal.