Bridgestone is undertaking research in the United States to develop the Guayule plant as an alternative source of rubber. The company says the perennial shrub native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico produces natural rubber in its bark and roots. Its qualities are almost identical to those of rubber harvested from Hevea trees, currently the primary source for the natural rubber used in tires. The growing area of Hevea Brasiliensis is limited to tropical climates close to the equator. By contrast, Guayule is native to desert climates, with a huge potential growing area, Bridgestone says. The company expects to finalize a location in the Southwestern U.S., establish the research farm, and begin construction on the process research center later in 2012. The facility is expected to be fully operational in 2014. Trial rubber production should start in 2015.