Beautiful Australian Native Timber Trees

Beautiful Australian Native Timber Trees

The red cedar (Toona ciliata var australis) is possibly our most famous timber tree. Once prolific along the rich, loamy banks of the Brisbane, Albert and Logan Rivers as well as in the rainforests of the mountain slopes, these trees were indiscriminately and unsustainably logged by the early pioneers of the late nineteenth century and few large trees are now found in the natural environment. Its timber, red in colour, fine grained and easily worked, is highly prized for furniture, wood panelling and construction.

Toona ciliata – Photograph courtesy of Neil Murphy.

This tree belongs to the mahogany family which grows throughout southern Asia and along the east coast of Australia as far south as Ulladulla in NSW. It is one of our few native deciduous trees, losing its leaves in the Brisbane area between June and August to conserve water during the dry months. In spring, new flushes of pink leaves make way for a developing bright green canopy with sprays of white, slightly scented flowers. The brown seed pods burst open in summer to release the winged seeds, leaving behind a delicate star-shaped capsule.

Although this tree is easy to grow, it rarely reaches its full height of 45m. This is because the tree produces a chemical that attracts the Cedar tip moth which lays its eggs in the leading shoot. The larvae that hatch burrow into the stem and cause die-back. The tree responds by sending out lateral branches. The result is a beautifully shaped, but shorter tree that has little commercial value but makes for a lovely garden tree.

Another valuable timber tree of coastal areas and sub-coastal ranges is the flooded or rose gum (Eucalyptus grandis). This is a tall (reaching 50m at maturity in ideal conditions), straight stemmed tree with lateral branches only occurring in the top ¾ in forest conditions. In cultivation the tree is shorter and sends out side branches from only a few metres from the base. It has smooth bark that is blue-grey to white in colour and glossy, dark green leaves. The white flowers occur between April and August, followed by small pear-shaped gumnuts.

Because of its large, straight trunk, hardwood timber, fast growth and toleration of a range of soil conditions (from sandy to heavy clay), extensive plantations of the rose gum have been established. The timber is used for a range of general construction and making plywood and in high quality furniture. Although too large for most home gardens, it is an stately tree for those with a large property. This tree is ideal for creek stabilisation and provides food for a variety of wildlife. The grey-headed flying fox and little lorikeet feed on the blossoms, the yellow-bellied glider on sap and the koala on the leaves.

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