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Other Australian Hardwoods

There are three groups of Australian hardwoods useful for their timber: Eucalypts (gums), Acacia (wattle) and rainforest species.

Rainforest Species of Economic Importance

In Australia, rainforest species are becoming increasingly limited in commercial quantities due to world heritage listing restrictions in the areas in which they are native. They are mostly unsuitable for plantation growth - for many reasons - but it is very difficult to simulate rainforest conditions in a monoculture.

Silky Oak

Grevillea robusta (Silky Oak), is the largest tree of the Grevillea family (200 species of trees and shrubs that are mainly native to Australia and near Pacific islands). Produces sawn timber of medium strength that is used for furniture, packing cases, flooring, paneling, and plywood.

It's original distribution is a coastal region of southern Queensland down to northern New South Wales - as far inland as the western slopes of the Great Dividing range [6].

Folige is large, deep green and fern-like (whitish beneath). It is a fast growing tree that has been grown in many countries around the world - for both its timber and flower (around November & December horizontal clusters of fiery orange mass in the branches).

To view an image of Grevillea robusta in flower, follow this link [10]. (Copyright Griffith University)

Grevillea robusta is not a suitable plantation species as its roots can inhibit the growth of other Grevillea robusta surrounding it making monoculture plantations uneconomic.

For more information on the failure of Grevillea robusta in monocultures and plantations, follow this link, and this link [10]. (Copyright Griffith University)

In the northern hemisphere, it was once a leading face veneer, where it was marketed as "lacewood." The wood contains an allergen that causes contact dermatitis for some people [4].

Many other tree species are also marketed as "silky oak" - thirty other tree species are listed on the Victorian Woodworker's Association website under this common name.

See the INTAD "Online resources section" for the URL. (Select "Resources/Web-based Resources" from the main menu).

Cardwellia sublimis (Northern Silky Oak) and Orites excelsa are the two other most commonly cited species.

Northern Silky Oak is a medium-sized to tall tree, growing to 40 metres. The tree bears large, woody fruits - up to a size of approximately 12 cm long by 8 cm wide. Cardwellia sublimis is found north of Mount Spec to Bloomfield in North Queensland - and up to 60 km from the coast. The average annual rainfall in this area is 1500 mm to 3700 mm. (VERY WET - very tropical!). During the years from the late 1950's to late 1970's, this tree species was the mainstay of the northern Queensland timber industry - making up to 15 percent of the total mill intake [12].

Orites excelsa grows predominantly in higher altitudes of northern NSW, south east Queensland, and north Queensland, and is also commonly known as "prickly ash". It is now regarded as a "rare" species. It displays large white flowers - approximately 10 cm long spikes - and the fruit is a dry, woody capsule. Around the turn of the century the timber from Prickly Ash was used in furniture, cabinet making and wine casks [11].

Follow this link to view a Lithographic Plate showing drawings of Orites excelsa [7].

Follow this link for more information and to view an image of Orites excelsa [11].

Follow this link to see a cabinet made of silky oak [5].


Next >> More Hardwoods


Glossary

heartwood: the hard wood at the core of a tree trunk.

monoculture: The cultivation of a single crop on a farm or in a plantation.

native: An animal or a plant that originated in a particular place or region.

plantation: A large group of cultivated trees or plants.

sapwood: In a woody plant, the softer part of the wood between the inner bark and the heartwood, and is usually lighter in color and more active in water conduction than the heartwood.

turning: the shaping of wood on a lathe.

Citations

[1] Corcoran, M. (1998). Australian National University - Forestry: Acacia Seeds [WWW Document] URL http://www.anu.edu.au/Forestry/wood/nwfp/acacia/acacia.html (visited January, 2001).

[2] National Association of Forest Industries (undated) Forestry Australia [WWW Document] URL http://www.nafi.com.au/ (visited January, 2001).

[3] School of Architecture, University of Tasmania (Australia) (2000). Species Detail [WWW Online database] URL http://oak.arch.utas.edu.au/tech/species.html

[4] Asthma New South Wales (undated). The Low Allergenic Garden [WWW Document] URL http://www.asthmansw.org.au/peopleinfo/lowallergengarden.htm (visited January, 2001).

[5] John Hein Studio Furnituremaker (undated). Silky Oak Cabinet [WWW Document] URL http://pluto.njcc.com/~jhein/silky.html (visited January, 2001).

[6] Macquarie Net (1999). Register of the National Estate Database ["Blackfellows Knob National Park, Tood"]. [WWW Online database] URL http://www.macnet.mq.edu.au

[7] Maiden J.H. (1902 - 1924). (University of Sydney Library) Forest Flora of New South Wales [WWW Online Database] URL http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/badham/

[8] Australian National Botanic Gardens (undated). ANBG: Photographic Images [WWW Document] URL http://www.anbg.gov.au/images/photo_cd/ (visited January, 2001).

[9] Queensland (Australia) Department of Natural Resources (DNR) (1996, December). Tree Facts: Managing native fodder trees [Portable document format] URL http://www.dnr.qld.gov.au/fact_sheets/pdf_files/T37.pdf

[10] Griffith University Library - Queensland, Australia (2001). Len Webb Ecological Images Collection [WWW Online Database] URL http://www.gu.edu.au/ins/lils/webb/content1.html (visited January, 2001).

[11] University of Queensland: School of Natural and Rural Systems Management (2000). Lamington National Park: Prickly Ash Orites excelsa [WWW Document] URL http://lamington.nrsm.uq.edu.au/docs/Plant/pricklyash.htm (visited February, 2001).

[12] CSIRO (1984). Forest Trees of Australia. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Australia.

Copyright D. L. Christiansen [Last updated March 2001] Images: respective copyright owners noted/cited.

 

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