The natural rubber is produced from hundreds of different plant species. However, the most important source is from a tropical tree known as Hevea brasiliensis, which is native to the tropical Americas. This tree grows best in areas with an annual rainfall of just under 2000mm and at temperatures of 21-28 degrees. Due to these features and the preferred altitude of the tree around 600 metres, the prime growing area is around 10 degrees on either side of the equator. However it is also cultivated further north in China, Mexico, and Guatemala.
In 1876, Sir Henry Wickham collected some 70,000 seeds from Brazil. These seeds were germinated and shipped to the East Indies, where they began today's rubber plantations. Today Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand produces around 90% of the world's natual rubber. New plantations have also been started in Africa, The Phillipines, and Europe to make up for insufficient rubber output in Indonesia.