TASMANIAN AND AUSTRALIAN TIMBERS
Tasmania is home to Australia’s largest tracts of cool temperate rain forest. Many of the trees which grow in the rainforests are ancient and primeval, and they include myrtle, sassafras, blackwood and Huon pine. These beautiful rainforests can encompass silent, cool and dark places where mosses and lichens decorate tree trunks and the forest ferny floors.
Over 20% of Tasmania is Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and at least one fifth of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, including the Tarkine Wilderness region in the north-west of Tasmania which contains the largest tract of temperate rainforest in the southern hemisphere.
The Tarkine wilderness is one of the last remaining and most significant temperate rain forests in the world. This Tasmanian wilderness area also extends to the Cradle Mountain in the North West and many other remote locations which can only be reached on foot.
Tasmania has a very diverse range of flowering plants, conifers, mosses and fungi. Some of the most ancient plant species on Earth, including the tallest flowering trees, the oldest plants and a significant amount of endemic species can be found in Tasmania.
TASMANIAN MYRTLE (Nothofagus Cunninghamii)
Myrtle is one of the dominant trees in the Tasmanian cool temperate rainforests and can grow to between 20 to 30m in height with a trunk diameter between 1 to 1.5m and is classed as a hardwood. Tasmanian Myrtle is considered to be close to the Beech (Fagus genus) and is sometimes called Myrtle Beech or Silver Beech.
Myrtle timber colours can vary from pink to light reddish brown. It can also have wavy curly grain and, more uncommon, are the dark black streaks in the wood which is sometimes called “tiger myrtle” and is the result of fungal discolouration. The Myrtle Beech has a fine grain that can be straight, interlocked or feature a fiddleback pattern. The burls and knotty wood of myrtle beech are very much desired by crafts workers.
BLACKWOOD (Acacia Melanoxylon)
Blackwood is sometimes called Tasmanian Blackwood or Acacia Blackwood. The trees can grow between 10 to 20m in height with a trunk diameter between 0.6 to 1.0m. They tend to grow in the wetter areas and in Tasmania they can reach up to 40 metres. A substantial area of Blackwood Trees can be found near Smithton in the north west of Tasmania,
Tasmanian Blackwood presents with a rich golden brown, with medium and even texture with a grain that can be straight or have a wavy fiddleback. It is a favourite Tasmanian hardwood that is reasonably easily worked and very much in demand by furniture makers and crafts workers.
SASSAFRAS (Atherosperma Moschaltum)
Sassafras can be found in Tasmania’s native rainforests. It generally grows in well-drained rainforests in cool damp conditions, where it is one of the dominant species. The southern sassafras is a small to medium-sized tree growing around 6 to 25 m tall. In Tasmania, it has been known to reach heights around 40m with a trunk width of 1m and can be identified by the conical shape, the pale green leaves, and fragrant scent.
Tasmanian sassafras has beautiful and varied timbers with colours that vary from pale cream to white, and can also be streaked with rich browns and blackheart. This gives rise to two major categories – Golden Sassafras and Blackheart Sassafras. The Blackheart Sassafras timber has contrasting wavy rings of brown to black which creates beautiful and unique patterns, so that no two pieces are necessarily the same. As a result, Sassafras is a very popular timber for craft workers.
HUON PINE (Lagarostrobus franklinii)
Huon Pine is Australia’s oldest living tree and is well known as an iconic Tasmanian timber. They are endemic to Tasmania and Huon Pine forests can be found in western Tasmania and near many west and south coast rivers. More than 90% of these forests are protected in large permanent reserves and Huon Pine trees grow very slowly needing around 500 years to reach the size at which the trunk could be sawn into timber.
Huon Pine timber is creamy to rich golden in colour, can be very fine grained or figured with birdseye and has a subtle aromatic scent. It is a light, soft and fine textured wood which makes it very workable and is naturally durable. The timber has been used in ship-building in Tasmania since 1815 and also very popular for use in building furniture. It is also very much sought after by crafts workers and artisans because of its unique beauty.
WESTERN RED CEDAR IThuja Plicata) and AUSTRALIAN RED CEDAR (Toona Ciliata)
Western Red Cedar is not a native tree of Tasmania or, indeed, Australia. It is a widespread and popular evergreen conifer tree which grows in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It has been introduced into other parts of the world and grows in both a wild and cultivated form in Canada and the United States.
Western red cedar is durable softwood favoured for its rich and inviting earthy tones. Colours can ranges from a honey colour through to a richer dark brown. It has a fine texture and straight grain with growth rings often visible. Whilst the timber is valued in construction for its durability it can be problem for people who work with it due to its chemical properties which are a serious occupational hazard and requires extra care. Western Red Cedar is imported by a number of timber specialists in Tasmania, and is still available for local construction and wood working projects.
Australian Red Cedar is a very celebrated native timber which grows naturally in the temperate rainforests along the east coast of Australia. It is a large tree which can grow up to and above 40 metres. The Australian Red Cedar has a sweet dry roses smell and its’ timber is light and fine grained with a beautiful even deep red colour.
It is a very durable and attractive timber, however attempts to produce the Australian Red Cedar in commercial quantities have been mainly unsuccessful. The tree produces a natural chemical which attracts the Cedar Tip Moth. The moth lays its eggs on the tree’s leading shoot and ultimately causes dieback. Whilst the tree does not physically die, the damage usually results in the tree developing a lot of low down branches which diminishes its commercial value.
CELERY TOP PINE (Phyllociadus Aspienifolius)
Celery top pine is a strong, durable and attractive softwood confer that is endemic to Tasmania. Celery Top Pine trees can reach a height of between 15 to 40 metres, with a trunk width of 85cm. Although named as a pine, it does not resemble pines in appearance and is more related to yew trees.
They are widespread across Tasmania and most plentiful in the western highlands. The leaves of the Celery Top Pine are very similar to those of a celery plant, which has given rise to its common name. It is a relatively rare wood with colours that range from pale yellow to pale brown which darken to gold as the heartwood ages. The timber resembles Huon Pine but has no oil or odour and appears to have slightly less lustre and more contrasting growth rings.
Many of the timbers used in our timber earrings have been re-purposed from old timbers and we fully support the concept of responsible use and sustainability of the forests. We believe that Tasmania’s history of forestry and the use of its beautiful and valued timbers combined with ensuring sustainability is becoming the way forward for the future of Tasmanian Timbers in the years ahead.