New Zealand Kauri
Botanical Name: Agathis Australis
The Kauri tree, Agathis Australis, is New Zealand's largest and most famous native tree. It is a type of confir or pine tree which grows in the subtropical upper North Island. In times past large Kauri forests proliferated this region.
Maori used the Kauri tree extensively. The gum was used to start fires, to burn torches and as chewing gum. Gum smoke was used as insect repellent. The timber was used for boat building, carving and housing. The doot was used as pigmentation for the sacred tattoo (moko).
Following the arrival of European settlers in the early 1800's these magnificent forests were decimated. The Kauri was quickly discovered as "the timbermans dream". Clean-boled and without taper the giant trees yielded unprecedented quantities of straight, strong, knot-free, easily workable, golden lumber.
The timber was used for many purposes: ship building (including masts and spars of sailing ships), hoises, furniture, bridges, fences, dams, patterns (used for metal casting), vats and tanks , barrels, large rollers (in the textile industry), railway sleepers, mine-props, carving, wood turning and many other uses.
The gum, too, became essential in the manufacture of varnishes. Gum was obtained through digging, fossicking in treetops or more drastically, by bleeding live trees.
The largest Kauri in existence today is Tane Mahuta (Maori for "Lord of the Forest"). It is 4.4 metres in diameter and 17.7 metres to the first branch.
The oldest living Kauri tree is estimated to be 2,000 years old. This is Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) in Waipoua Forest.
Kauri forests once covered 1.2 million hectares; now they have been reduced to 80,000 hectares. The remaining forests are now National reserves protecting the remaining specimens for all time.
In our prehistoric past, many if the vast Kauri forests proliferating the upper North Island of New Zealand were felled by an unexplained natural disaster. Many of these massive tress became buried in peat swamps.
This underground resting place, sealed from the air, became a perfectly balanced cocoon that preserved the timber. In recent times, as these peat swamps were drained to create more farmland the ancient Kauri trees were discoved. Radiocarbon dating tests conducted by a number of universities on samples taken from these swamp lands estimaite the timber to be 30,000 - 50,000 years old.
Ancient Kauri has a beautiful and distinctive grain. When polished, the wood has a deep golden colour with hues, textures and sheens that change under differing shades of light.