The RIC Good Wood Guide

Australian Grown Plantation Timber Species


Below is a listing of native and exotic tree species which are known to be grown in Australia. As the data becomes available, the Guide will indicate where plantations are located and where the timber from each may be obtained. (Further down the track, we hope to be able to recommend certified sources.) For the time being, this is useful information to have on hand when purchasing or specifying only plantation-grown species.

BLACKBUTT (H) (OS)

Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) is grown in plantations in the Coffs Harbour - Urunga districts in northern NSW, where it comprises about 40% of the total plantation resource for this state. It occurs naturally between Bega in southern NSW and Maryborough in Qld. It is also grown in plantations in New Zealand. (Recycled Blackbutt is available from Nullarbor Forest Industries, see Timber Recyclers in the Alternative Directory).

NB: New England Blackbutt (Eucalyptus andrewsii) is an old growth forest timber and is not recommended.

BLUEGUM (H) (OS)

Bluegum, or Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus saligna), occurs naturally from Southern NSW to South Qld. Durable. Suitable for general building, cladding, flooring, boatbuilding, furniture, plywood. One of the species grown extensively in plantations in South Africa, plus Hawaii and New Zealand.

BLUE LEAVED STRINGYBARK (H)

Blue Leaved Stringybark (Eucalyptus agglomerata), grows naturally on the central and southern coast and tablelands of NSW. There are only limited quantities growing in plantations. Stringybark's heartwood is durable, making it potentially a very versatile structural timber.

BROWN MALLET (H)

Brown Mallet (Eucalyptus astringens) is native to Western Australia. Heartwood is moderately durable. Suitable for general construction, handles, etc.

NB: Malletwood is a Queensland rainforest timber, and should be avoided.

BUNYA PINE

Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii) grows naturally in the Gympie and Yarram districts of Southern Qld. Wood is similar to Hoop Pine but slightly pinker and less dense. Not durable. Suitable for joinery, plywood, furniture.

NB: Bunya is also taken from old growth forests - make sure of the source.1

CARIBBEAN PINE (E) (S)

Also known as 'Southern Pine', Caribbean Pine (Pinus caribaea, Pinus bahamensis, Pinus hondurensis), is native to Central America, Cuba and the Bahamas. Grown in plantations in Queensland and northern NSW. There may be supplies available from the Northern Territory, near Darwin. Old growth timber is durable; plantation timber much less so. Used in general construction, flooring.

COCONUT PALM (E)

(See Tropical Plantation Timber).

CORSICAN PINE (E) (S)

Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra, Pinus calabrica, Pinus laricio, Pinus maritima), also called Austrian Pine, is a native of Southern Europe. Grown in small quantities in Australia and New Zealand. Viable on sites unsuitable for other species. Has similar qualities to Radiata. Not durable. Used for general construction, flooring, panelling, poles.

CYPRESS MACROCARPA (E) (S)

Cypress Macrocarpa (Cupressus macrocarpa) or Monterey Pine, is an exotic species commonly used for windbreaks on Victorian farms, where it was planted around 70 to 100 years ago. It is now increasingly widely available commercially. Several small sawmilling operations in Victoria are processing this farm-sourced timber. The Victorian Good Wood Guide recommends it as an ideal substitute for Oregon (Douglas Fir), since it costs about one-third less in price.

DUNNS WHITE GUM (H)

Dunns White Gum (Eucalyptus dunnii), also called Killarney Ash in Qld, is a large hardwood, native to the richer soils adjacent to the rainforests and coastal ranges of NSW and Qld. Heartwood is not durable enough for external use. Suitable for building framework, joinery.

NB: Grey Gum, Manna Gum, Mountain Grey Gum, River Red Gum and Shining Gum are taken from old growth forests - they are not recommended. 1

EUROPEAN LARCH (E)

 

FLOODED GUM (H) (OS) (R)

Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus Grandis) or Rose Gum, comprises about 30% of the total plantation stock for NSW. It occurs naturally from the Central Coast of NSW to northern Qld. Heartwood is moderately durable. Less mature timber suitable only for internal applications. Suitable for panelling, joinery, furniture, general construction. The first plantations in NSW were planted several decades ago by APM, but then abandoned. Plantations are now managed by NSW State Forests. A hybrid of this species, E. urophylla, is being cultivated extensively in plantations in Brazil. Other countries cultivating it include South Africa and Malaysia.

GYMPIE MESSMATE (H)

Gympie Messmate (Eucalyptus cloeziana), is a large hardwood occurring naturally in coastal Queensland from Gympie to the Atherton district. Its heartwood is durable, and its sapwood not susceptible to lyctid borer attack. Suitable for general construction, sleepers, poles, etc.

NB: Any Gympie Messmate originating from old growth forests should be avoided. Likewise, Messmate Stringybark (E. oblique) is also taken from old growth forests and should be avoided as well. 1

HOOP PINE (S)

Hoop Pine 2 (Araucaria cunninghamii), also called Dorrigo Pine, Colonial Pine, or Arakaria is a rainforest timber, native to northern NSW, Queensland and the mountain regions of PNG. It is the only native tropical timber grown in substantial quantities in plantations within Australia. (Plantations have been established since the early 1920's, when attempts to source Hoop from naturally regenerated forests failed.)

Hoop Pine is available on the NSW market as plywood, mouldings, sawn timber and slabs. Queensland has extensive Hoop Pine plantations which are now mature. These are managed by the Qld Forest Service but harvested by private contractors.

We warn consumers that large boards of solid Hoop Pine (say, 30 by 2.5cm) are likely to have originated from rainforests, and should be avoided. Smaller boards (say, 15 by 2.5cm, or less) are more likely to have originated in plantations. Knotty Hoop pine timber, particularly in large formats, is highly likely to be from native forest (or a solitary remnant) and not from a plantation.

Heartwood is durable only in sheltered conditions or in drier regions. Suitable for: plywood, particleboard, furniture, joinery, flooring, panelling.

NB: Hoop Pine is also taken from old growth forests - make sure of the source. 1

JARRAH (H)

Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), is a large hardwood growing in the south-west corner of Western Australia. Jarrah, along with Karri, is also taken from old growth forests. Heartwood is durable. Used in general construction, sleepers, poles, piles, flooring, panelling, joinery, heavy furniture. Plantation sources very limited.

NB: Jarrah mostly comes from old growth and so-called 'regrowth' forests of WA, so check up on the source. Preferably buy only secondhand Jarrah or use another timber.1

KARRI (H) (OS)

Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor), is native to south-west Western Australia. It is one of Australia's tallest hardwood trees. Larger formats and clearer grades are more likely to be old growth (see note). Heartwood is moderately durable. Suitable for flooring, panelling, structural plywood, shipbuilding. Mature plantation sources are still very limited.

NB: Karri is still logged from old growth and so-called 'regrowth' forests in WA, so be careful when consulting your timber reseller. Preferably, buy only secondhand Karri.1

The Dutch Directorate of Public Works has established a precedent, and decided to source its hardwood imports from Africa instead of buying W.A. Karri, saying that production is more environmentally sound there. Interestingly, South Africa has substantial quanities of plantation-grown Karri available.

KAURI PINE (S)

Kauri Pine (Agathis microstachya, palmerstonii, robusta) or Queensland Kauri, or Bull Kauri, is a large softwood native to the Cairns and Maryborough districts. Similar to, but slightly darker than Hoop Pine. Heartwood is not durable. Suitable for plywood, furniture, joinery, patternmaking, vats, kitchen utensils, battery separators, turnery, violin bellies. Supplies mainly limited to northern Queensland.

LOBLOLLY PINE (E) (S)

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), is indigenous to south-eastern USA. Plantations exist in Queensland and northern NSW, and the North Island of New Zealand. The heartwood is not sufficiently durable for severe conditions. Suitable for general framing, plywood, joinery.

MARITIME PINE (E) (S)

Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster) is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. Large plantations also exist in southern France, Spain and Portugal. It has been established on sandy soils in WA which are too poor to support Radiata plantations. Not durable. Easy to work apart from often frequent knots, etc. Suitable for general construction applications.

MESSMATE (H) (OS)

Messmate (Eucalyptus obliqua) , also called Messmate Stringybark, grows naturally in parts of Victoria and Tasmania, and less widely in South Australia, the tablelands of NSW and southern Queensland. Most of the timber of this species on the market is either old growth (if from Tasmania, it may be sold on the mainland as 'Tasmanian Oak'), or over-exploited regrowth (ie, from Victoria's vastly overcut, overchipped Wombat State Forest). The timber is brown to light-brown, with a straight grain and some gum veins. it is only moderately durable but can be used in exposed locations if a more durable species is not obtainable. Also grown in plantations in New Zealand.

OREGON (E) (S)

Oregon (pseudotsuga spp.) or Douglas fir, is native to eastern America, from Mexico to British Columbia. There, it is one of the most important commercial softwoods. On this side of the world, it is grown in plantations in western Victoria and New Zealand (in limited quantities). It can be used in applications both above-ground and where exposed to the weather. Mature virgin forest Oregon is classed as durable; however, the plantation product, if exposed to the weather, must be adequately waterproofed and maintained. If the Oregon can positively be identified as coming from Australia or New Zealand, rather than from the US or Canada, its use is encouraged. If your timber reseller can verify claims as to the plantation origin of the imported timber, then North American-sourced timber could be a second option. This plantation-grown variety has a looser grain than the Canadian and American (old growth) versions and does not have such high load-bearing qualities. Used for structural framing, joinery, vats, boatbuilding.

PONDEROSA PINE (E) (S)

Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), or (Western) Yellow Pine is a native of Western North America, from British Columbia to California. Small quantities are grown in Australia. Light weight, stable, easy to work. Durable, except in severe conditions or inground applications. Suitable for joinery, mouldings, furniture, toymaking, patternmaking, cooperage.

POPLAR (E) (H)

Poplar (populus spp) is grown in plantations and on agricultural land, mainly in the Grafton, Kempsey and Bathurst/Oberon/Tumut/Tumbarumba areas in New South Wales, and in New Zealand.

Some of the Australian plantations were originally established to supply the matchstick industry. NSW presently only has about 1200 hectares of poplar plantations, but hopefully, the popularity of disposable lighters and the consequent loss of demand for Australian-grown poplar as matchsticks will not prevent it being acknowledged as a useful timber tree. The Victorian Good Wood Centre says Poplar yields an attractive white timber with an exceptionally fine grain and can be stained to any shade. New Zealand agroforesters have recognised and capitalised on the advantage of its short, 20-year rotation period. Australian farm foresters may do well to follow suit (but hopefully only as part of a mixed-species enterprise).

Reconstituted poplar veneer is particularly useful as a substitute for rainforest veneers. Poplar is suited for inside use only. Its low density timber is suitable for mirror frames and architraves, etc.

The Occidental Chemical corporation in the U.S. uses poplar trees to reduce trichloroethylene levels in the soil ie, as a kind of organic 'mop' for industrial chemical spills. The process is called Phytoremediation; unfortunately, once the plants have absorbed the pollutants, they in turn become hazardouse waste.

QUEENSLAND MAPLE (H)

Queensland Maple (Flindersia brayleyana) originates from north Qld and New Guinea. Heartwood is moderately durable. Suitable for furniture, decorative veneer, rifle stocks, panelling, joinery.

NB: Qld Maple is also taken from old growth forests. Check with the seller regarding the source.1

RADIATA PINE (E) (S)

Radiata Pine (Pinus Radiata), is a fast-growing softwood which originates from California in the U.S. In Australia, it is grown in plantation monocultures which are clearfelled at harvest time. It does nothing to enhance the protection or conservation of our native flora and fauna. Radiata is not endorsed by the Good Wood Guide, but whether we like it or not, it is the most common type of general purpose timber on the Australian market.

It is reasonably priced compared with other options, and is easily obtainable. There may be more than enough Radiata growing in Australia and New Zealand to meet our need for timber, but, because it would require chemical treatment in any application where it is exposed to weathering or persistent dampness, we recommend you only use it for interior uses. In fact, untreated Pine, unless borax treated and painted, can normally only be successfully used in non-exposed applications.

NB: Reports indicate that sewage-fed hardwood trees in plantations are equalling the growth rates of Radiata.

(Please also refer to Preservatives Not Recommended).

Non-exposed applications for Radiata include: flooring, panelling, furniture, joinery, plywood, particleboard, fibreboard, paper.

REDWOOD (E) (S)

Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) or Californian Redwood, originates from the coastal regions of California. It is a slow-growing softwood and one of the largest trees in the world. Most of the imported Redwood is cut from old growth forests and should be avoided. Small quantities are grown in Australia (in Victoria - by the Ballarat Water Board), as well as New Zealand. The plantation-grown product is sometimes prone to distortion during seasoning. The heartwood is durable except for inground use.

(Redwood timber from old growth forests is also included in the listing Imported Timbers whose Use should be Avoided).

RIVER RED GUM (H) (OS)

River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), is a medium to large hardwood found along many of southern Australia's inland rivers. Can endure long periods of flooding - which actually helps to preserve natural stands. The astringent kino exudate is used medicinally. Heartwood is durable. Suitable for flooring, sleepers, heavy furniture, decorative turnery, panelling, sills, posts. Also grown in plantations in Egypt, South Africa, Spain and Portugal.

NB: Grey Gum, Manna Gum, Mountain Grey Gum, River Red Gum and Shining Gum are taken from old growth forests - they are not recommended unless a plantation source is verified. 1

SILVER TOPPED STRINGYBARK (H)

Silver Topped Stringybark (Eucalyptus laevopinea), occurs naturally mainly in the north of NSW, where it is fairly common. Heartwood is only moderately durable.

SLASH PINE (E) (S)

Also known as 'Southern Pine', Slash Pine (Pinus elliotti, P. caribea, etc) is a native of south-eastern U.S. In Australia, it is grown in plantations mainly in south-east Queensland and to a lesser extent, northern NSW and New Zealand.

It is available as a high-quality, smooth-surface, face veneer. It is cheaper than imported rainforest veneers and their equal in strength, hardness and appearance. The heartwood is durable enough only for sheltered exposure. Used for general construction, flooring, panelling, plywood.

The Victorian Good Wood Centre suggests using native Hoop Pine as a quality substitute for the non-native Slash Pine.

SOUTHERN BLUE GUM (H)

Southern Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus), is a large hardwood found natually occurring in the cooler districts of S-E Australia, especially Tasmania and Victoria. Heartwood is moderately durable. Suitable for general building.

'SOUTHERN PINE' (E)

A collective name for either Slash, Caribbean or Loblolly Pine.

SOUTHERN SILKY OAK (H) (OS)

Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta), is a medium sized hardwood, native to the coastal rainforest from northern NSW and south-east Queensland. Due to its production of growth inhibiting phytotoxins, it is not viable in monocultures and can only thrive in mixed species plantations (!). Grown as a street tree in coastal and some inland areas. Heartwood is durable only in sheltered external locations. Also grown in South Africa.

NB: Northern and Southern Silky Oak are also taken from old growth forests - check the source. 1

SPOTTED GUM (H)

Spotted Gum (Eucalyptus maculata) occurs naturally on the poorer clay subsoils of the east coast from the Vic-NSW border to the Maryborough district in Qld. Heartwood is durable. Suitable for heavy piles, poles, shipbuilding, agricultural machinery, flooring, plywood, axe handles.

TALLOWWOOD (H)

Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) is a large hardwood native to the coast and ranges between the Hunter Region in NSW and the Maryborough district in Qld. Heartwood very durable. Suitable for heavy engineering structures, sleepers, bridges, wharfage, flooring, cladding, sills, crossarms, poles, piles, cooling towers.

(Recycled Tallowwood is also available from Nullarbor Forest Industries, see under Timber Recyclers in the Alternative Directory).

VICTORIAN ASH (H)

Victorian Ash is comprised of two species, Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) and Mountain Ash (E. regnans). Both are large hardwoods which naturally occur in Tasmania, Eastern Victoria and South-east NSW. Suitable for flooring, joinery and structural beams. Small quantities may be available from local farm foresters or private plantations in Victoria. Both species are also grown in plantations in New Zealand.

NB: These timbers are also sourced from regrowth forests in Central Victoria. Due to the high proportion of these forests going for woodchips, the Guide does not recommend the use of any regrowth forest Victorian Ash.


(E) = Exotic species

(H) = Hardwood

(S) = Softwood

(OS) = Also overseas grown

(R) = Rainforest species


1. See also Please Avoid these Australian Species.

2. See also Building With Hoop Pine + Hoop Pine & the Environment

3. Eucalyptus globulus. Common name: Blue gum. Medicinal Part: leaves.

Description: Eucalyptus is a tall, evergreen tree native to Australia and Tasmania. Among its various species, the blue gum is the one commonly grown in the U.S., being found in California, Florida, and parts of the South. The trunk, which grows to 300 feet high or more, is covered with peeling papery bark. The leaves on the young plant, up to 5 years old, are opposite (one of two leaves to a node on the stem), sessile (having no stalk), soft, oblong (longer than wide, rounded at the ends), pointed, and a hoary (closely covered with short and fine whitish hairs) blue colour. The mature leaves are alternate (arranged singly at different points along a stem), petioled (having a stalk), leathery, and shaped like a scimitar. The flowers are solitary (not in clusters), axillary (stem angled to branch), and white, with no petals and a woody calyx (outer part of the flower). The fruit is a hard, four-celled, many-seeded capsule (ie, which splits to release the seeds) enclosed in the calyx cup.

Properties and Uses: Antiseptic, deodorant, expectorant, stimulant. Most eucalytpus medications are made from the greenish-yellow oil obtained from the mature leaves. The oil, or lozenges and cough drops made from it, is useful for lung diseases, colds, and sore throat. It can also be used as a vapour bath for asthmna and other respiratory ailments, and as an antiseptic bath additive. Its expectorant properties are useful for bronchitis. The oil is also said to be useful for pyorrhea and for burns, to prevent indigestion and for intermittent fever. Externally, the antiseptic and deodorant qualities of the oil make it suitable for use on purulent wounds and ulcers.

Preparation and Dosage: Oil boil mature leaves in water and condense the vapour to recover the oil.

from: The Herb Book, by John Lust (Bantam Books, New York)



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