Thursday, May 14, 2009

Native woods on our island

On our island we have the following trees:
  • Kahikatea (also known by the misleading name "white pine")
  • Matai (also known by the misleading name "black pine")
  • Rimu (also known by the misleading name "red pine")
  • Kauri (one of the most ancient species of trees in NZ)
  • And possibly a few other types of trees, and also undergrowth.

On the scale of how threatened a species is, all of the above trees are "least concern", except for the kauri tree. The kauri is classified "conservation dependant" and often grows to at least 600 years old, though many seem to have reached the 1000 mark.


[Kauri] In the past the size and strength of kauri timber made it a popular wood for construction and ship building, particularly for masts of sailing ships due to the absence of branches extending for much of its height. Kauri is also a great timber for building the hulls and decks of boats because of its resistance to rot. Kauri stump wood was much appreciated for its beauty, and was wanted for ornamental wood panelling and fancy furniture.

[Rimu] Historically, rimu and other native trees such as kauri and totara were the main sources of wood for New Zealand, including house construction. But, many of New Zealand's original stands of rimu have been destroyed, and new laws forbid the cutting down of rimu in public forests, though allowing limited logging on private land. There is also limited recovery of stump and root wood, for use in making bowls and other wood turned objects. The inner bark can also be used to treat burns and cuts.

[Kahikatea] Since the wood does not impart an odour, and is clean and lightweight, Kahikatea was used to make boxes for the exporting of butter when the refrigerated export got better between Australia and New Zealand in the 1880s. For Māori, the kahikatea had many uses. The fleshy aril or koroi was an important food resource, and was served at feasts in great amounts. The wood was also favoured for making bird spears. Soot obtained from burning the heartwood supplied a pigment for traditional tattooing. Kahikatea, along with other trees in privately owned forests, can only be harvested under a permit system and if sustainable harvesting techniques are used.

[Matai] The timber of this tree was used extensively in New Zealand for flooring during the mid-20th century. Mataī is not threatened, although as a forest-type it has been greatly reduced through widespread logging. Very few intact examples of Matai-dominated forest remain.

To read more about them, visit the following websites:

Dacrydium cupressinum (Rimu)

Agathis australis (Kauri)

Dacrycarpus dacrydiodes (Kahikatea)

Prumnopitys taxifolia (Matai)