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Other Australian Hardwoods

Rainforest Species of Economic Importance (Continued) and Acacia (Wattle)

Other Rainforest Species

Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera)

Found in coastal districts of NSW and Queensland as far north as Atherton. Highly regarded for its strong, durable timber. The tree has a stringy fibrous bark. The common name comes from its orange-red resinous exudate - for which it is also known as Red Turpentine. Grows to 40 to 45 metres. The tree is of the family Myrtaceae - as are eucalypts and melaleucas.

Properties: Difficult to work with hand tools due to its high density. One of the world's most resistant timbers to fire damage. Syncarpia glomulifera is not susceptible to lyctid borer attack, under Schedule 3 of the regulations to the Queensland Timber Utilisation and Marketing Act 1987 [8].

Durability: Classified as very durable with high resistance to attack by decay fungi and termites; and outstanding resistance to marine borers, due to its high silica content.

Uses, therefore, include: marine work, shipbuilding, wharf decking, piling and poles, heavy construction, mallets, bearings.

The CSIRO claims, "Some 350,000 timber piles are in use in Australian ports and estuaries, and with each costing about $5,000 (Ed: 1997 figures) to install they represent a considerable investment. Marine borers can destroy untreated or inadequately treated piles very quickly, so it is essential to use timber that can withstand borer attack. The timber long favoured for piles in Australian waters is Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera), which offers a high level of natural resistance to marine borers. It can be used safely without treatment in southern areas, but has a limited life in the north; Cookson has found that it usually lasts 12-15 years at the Townsville test site. "Double treated" eucalypt piles, the currently available type showing the highest level of resistance, can last twice as long there. These are protected by both copper-chrome-arsenic (CCA) and pigment emulsified creosote (PEC) preservatives" [6].

The Australian Olympic Co-ordination Authority states it is the "wood that built Sydney". "It was also used extensively for building frames, bearers and flooring, wharf and bridge decking, railway sleepers and telegraph poles. It was even exported back to England where it was used to build the docks of London. Turpentine fruit is a favourite of flying foxes" [7].

More Online Information

To view a graphic of the Syncarpia glomulifera follow this link to the Australian National Botanic Gardens website [4].

Brown Quandong (Elaeocarpus coorangooloo) is a medium sized hardwood species found in Queensland between Mackay and Atherton. It was mainly used for veneers, joinery, plywood, and furniture. Now officially categorised as 'rare'.

Silver Quandong (Elaeocarpus angustifolius) (also called brush, blue or white quandong, or blue fig) grows from NSW to north Queensland and the Northern Territory. It is a fairly common, fast growing, riverine tree occurring usually as a dominant tree on the moist alluvial flats and gullies in lowland subtropical rainforest - growing to a height of 35 metres. Used for plywood, boat building, furniture, veneer, turnery, and steam bends well.

These trees are not related to the Desert Quandong (Santulum acuminatum), which grows in southern-central Queensland and arid areas of the southern states.

For more details on Brown Quandong properties follow this link [3].

Acacia Species (Wattle) of Economic Importance

The Acacia is Australia's largest plant group with about 750 species. There are few ecosystems in Australia which do not include the wattle. After the eucalypts, the acacias are the most prominent trees in Australia. Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) has been the national floral emblem since 1988. Flowers are predominately yellow and ball-like; fruit a pod (like a pea or bean pod). Acacia species are found in many parts of the world in tropical and subtropical regions, especially in Australia (known as wattles) and Africa (known as Mimosas) - there are about 1100 species worldwide. The ancient Egyptians used them - eg. the twigs for toothbrushes, the seed pods to make a dye - as have Australia's indigenous people - it is believed for over tens of thousands of years.

In times of drought, pastoralists use Acacia as fodder trees (eg. Mulga - Acacia aneura) [6].

Wattle seed is also the major bushfood produced by the emerging Australian bush-tucker industry (as measured by annual tonnage of raw produce). Some species of wattle seed are poisonous or inedible, however, forty-seven wattle tree produce seeds which are suitable for human food [1].

Uses of Wattle timber

Many wattles are not noted for the quality of their timber because they only have a short life span (most acacias have a life-span ranging from 10-35 years) and do not grow into big trees. However, those which do grow to a relatively large size produce an attractive red-brown heartwood similar to blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon). Generally, the wood can be used for craft work, such as carving and turning [2].

The larger Acacia species include:

Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) (other names: Black Wattle) [3].

Uses: Flooring, Internal lining, Finishing material, joinery, veneer For furniture uses, blackwood is valued for its long lasting, stable and easily worked qualities. It is prized for its lustrous grain, high degree of resilience, and ease of working. It is commonly used in furniture, musical instruments, panelling, internal flooring, veneers and joinery.

Workability: Blackwood bores, cuts, nails, turns, bends and generally works well. It can be worked to a highly resilient smooth polished finish.

Where grown: Down the entire east coast of Australia - from Queensland to Tasmania - and also SA. Grows to 30 m tall.

More Online Information

For more details on Blackwood properties follow this link [3].

For a photo of a Blackwood tree follow this link to the Australian National Botanic Gardens website [4].

For a photo of Blackwood leaves and flowers, follow this link to the Australian National Botanic Gardens website [4].

Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) [3].

The well-known Silver Wattle is one of Australia's most conspicuous native trees, abundant on the banks of rivers and creeks with its silver-grey foliage.

Uses: Used in the production of handles and furniture. Excellent for firewood.

Workability: The wood is easily split and reasonably tough.It is one of the softer hardwoods. It glues and pulps well.

Where grown: NSW to Tasmania. (Not native to Queensland - but commonly available).

More Online Information

For more details on Silver Wattle properties follow this link [3].

For a photo of Silver Wattle leaves and flowers, follow this link to the Australian National Botanic Gardens website [4].

Next >> Naturally Australian


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.


[1] Corcoran, M. (1998). Australian National University - Forestry: Acacia Seeds [WWW Document] URL (visited January, 2001).

[2] National Association of Forest Industries (undated) Forestry Australia [WWW Document] URL (visited January, 2001).

[3] School of Architecture, University of Tasmania (Australia) (2000). Species Detail [WWW Online database] URL

[4] Australian National Botanic Gardens (undated). ANBG: Photographic Images [Online Database] URL (visited May, 2001).

[5] Queensland (Australia) Department of Natural Resources (DNR) (1996, December). Tree Facts: Managing native fodder trees [Portable document format] URL

[6] CSIRO (1997, June). CSIRO Onwood 17 ["Preserving timber marine poles "] [WWW Document] URL

[7] Sydney Olympic Co-ordination Authority (undated). The Ecology Programs ["The Wood That Built Sydney. Turpentine: Syncarpia glomulifera"] [WWW Document] URL (visited May, 2001).

[8] Queensland (Australia) Department of Primary Industries (DPI) (1999, April). Powderpost Beetles in Timber in Queensland [WWW Document]. URL

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


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