Geography and Botanical Info

Geographic origins 

Kratom appears to be native to Borneo, Bali, Sumatra, The Sunda Isles, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Java. Thailand is where most of the information about natives using it comes from, though the cultural connection is rarely found in the northern/northeastern parts. Reportedly it grows abundantly in central and southern Thailand (at least it used to, eradication efforts by Thai authorities have reduced the Mitragyna speciosa population incredibly). Borneo is the world’s 3rd largest island. The island is split between the countries of Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The place Mount Kinabulu, and next to Mahakam River, is a specific place on the island mentioned in the kratom community where Indonesian kratom is grown and then exported to the US. There are communities of Indonesian farmers on Borneo island that farm kratom for a living. The island of Bali was and is a major exporter of kratom, and people argue on whether or not kratom that is sent from there actually grows there or not. It appears that most of it comes from Borneo or elsewhere. It’s up for debate whether or not all the kratom we receive here in the US, was originally grown in Indonesia and many even claim most all comes from Borneo. The reason this is unconfirmed is because it is banned in Thailand and some of the other ‘countries of origin’, so nobody can verify shipments! This applies to Vietnam and Malaysia as well, as it is banned in these places yet we receive strains like “Yellow Vietnam” and “Green Malay” here in the states. It’s possible that people are smuggling Thai, Malaysian, and Vietnam kratom to Indonesia and them sending it here, but the Transnational Institute and Thailand’s media have investigated the kratom trade and can probably clear up some of the confusion. We now know that Thailand’s efforts to eradicate kratom trees has been so effective, that southern Thailand gets most of its kratom from Malaysia! This feeds evidence into the possible scenario for where the name Thai comes from, that it could refer to the genetics, and not location. For example Thai cuttings could have originated in Thailand, cloned and sold to Indonesian growers years ago. Since cuttings are of the same age of the parent it originated from, Indonesians would only have to grow them to size and not have to wait decades for maturity. That would provide an argument that the different effects we feel from various strains are due to genetics, not geography (To a certain extent. Studies have shown geography, and time of harvest, do indeed play a role in alkaloid levels in all plants). And the insight into Malaysian kratom being imported into Thailand also tells us it’s highly possible that Malaysian strains are being smuggled on a large scale to Indonesia as well. If this is the case, and it most likely is, then ‘Green Malay’ is authentically from Malaysia. Either way, all evidence points to the theory that Thai kratom leaves definetly are NOT being smuggled from Thailand. If Thailand’s kratom chewers are getting their kratom leaves from Malaysia, which can be considered a fact, then obviously Thai kratom is not being exported out of the country. They are either Thailand genetics grown in Indonesia, or people over there or here in the states are calling strains that meet a certain criteria, ‘Thai’. I personally believe it is the former.

Bontanical kratom information 

Kratom’s binomial name is Mitragyna speciosa Korthals (named by Pieter Willem Korthals). It so happens to be in the same family as coffee, and its scientific classification is as follows: 

Kingdom: Plantae 

Order: Gentianales 

Family: Rubiaceae 

Subfamily: Cinchonoideae 

Tribe: Naucleeae 

Genus: Mitragyna 

Species: M. speciosa 

Kratom can grow as big as15ft wide, and 10 to 100 feet tall, though most don’t get taller than 50 feet. The leaves can grow to be 7 inches long and 4 inches wide. It’s an aborescent, non-deciduous evergreen, growing all year round year after year in the tropical climates of Southeast  Asia. The wetter the season the more leaf production, the drier more leaves drop. The leaves shape is ovate-acuminate, and they can be light to dark green with a slight waxy or glossy appearance. When Mitragyna speciosa goes into flower it will have yellow clusters of 120 florets. Seeds rapidly degrade after being released from the plant, so germination rates decrease very quickly from that point on, and the seeds do not store well. The leaves from one tree can vary in potency and this is a direct connection to the environment. If it’s cold the leaves will be weak, and warmer temperatures will result in higher potency leaves. Cold also slows leaf growth and tends to lead to leaf drop. When it’s warmer leaf production is at its best.