Myrtle trees grow in Tasmania’s cool temperate rainforests and in the understorey of the mixed wet eucalypt forests in Tasmania’s wetter regions. The wood colour varies from pink to a deep red brown; fiddle-back and burl figure is highly valued. It is a hard, very close grained wood and works and polishes well to a fine finish. Tiger myrtle is perhaps the rarest of the Myrtle colours, the tiger stripe of contrasting dark brown & black is caused by fungal discoloration. The most dominant tiger stripe is displayed in quarter-sawn timber. Myrtle timber is available but not plentiful following the reservation of the main resource in the Tarkine reserve in 2005.
Sassafras grows as an understorey tree in Tasmania’s wet mixed forests and rainforests; it also grows in Victoria and New South Wales. The black-heart sassafras with the spectacular black-heart stain caused by naturally occurring wood fungi in living trees provides an outstanding timber for furniture. Timber from black-heart sassafras logs can have a range of contrasting brown to black colours which contrast strongly with the normal light-coloured wood.
Black-heart sassafras timber is used in wood turning, furniture, joinery, for veneers and in many souvenir items. Book matched boards or veneer can produce stunning effects with even slight amounts of heart stain. Spalted sassafras timber, fine dark lines caused by stain fungi in the log after harvesting, is also attractive and popular in craft and furniture items. Black-heart sassafras sawlogs are likely to become very scarce because many forest areas with these trees are likely to be reserved.
Blackwood is Tasmania’s most widely used Tasmanian specialty timber. Blackwood is produced in moderate commercial volumes and grows across a broad range of wet forest types and in locally wet soils. Most of the best, straightest and tallest blackwood trees are found in the wet forest and swamps of North-West Tasmania. Blackwood timber colour ranges from a very pale honey colour through to a dark chocolate with streaks of red tinge. The most prized and valuable blackwood timber with tight fiddle-back figure, is the most prized. Blackwood is our Tasmania’s most popular timber used in many furniture, fit-out and turning applications. Timber availability is likely to remain relatively plentiful.
Huon pine is Tasmania’s most famous and highly prized specialty timber. Huon pine is endemic to Tasmania. Australia’s oldest living trees are Huon pines and they are one of the oldest known living organisms on the planet. It was first used as a superb boat-building timber due to its natural durability and ease of use. Huon pine wood has a rich golden colour and a distinct perfume. It is very forgiving to work across the woodworking disciplines, from turning, veneer/inlay to cabinet making. While care may be needed in finishing due to its inherent oiliness, it produces a high lustre.
Birds-eye and figured Huon pine are the most coveted features producing intense lustre in the grain patterns. Huon pine is used for a wide range of products from souvenirs to well-designed small artefacts, modern furniture, high class fit-out, boat building and sculpture. Eighty-five per cent of Huon pine forests are conserved in National Parks and fifteen per cent are managed by Forestry Tasmania. Forestry Tasmania surveys all salvage/harvest sites and plants Huon pine seedlings to ensure sites are fully regenerated.
Celery-top pine is so named due to the resemblance of its leaves to those of celery. In fact, these are not true leaves, but rather cladodes (flattened stems); although very young seedlings have needle-like leaves. The development of cladodes is thought to be an adaptation to the low light levels often present in the habitat in which this species occurs. The tree grows to 30 m in height and may attain a maximum age of 800 years.
King Billy pine is thought to derive its common name from the Tasmanian Aboriginal William Lanney, who was referred to as King Billy. It reaches a height of 40 m and may reach ages in excess of 1200 years. The species is restricted to regions above 600 metres where it grows in highland rainforest.