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Descriptions of Some Australian Timbers

BANKSIA TIMBER

Banksia trees are characterised by leathery leaves and large candle-like spikes of yellow flowers.

Several of the Banksia species (most notably ‘Bull Banksia’ (Banksia grandis)) produce a very attractive timber with prominent rays in various shades of red.

BANKSIA NUT

The fruiting nuts that remain after the Banksia flowers have died off are very large, and hard enough that they can be sawn and even turned on a lathe, proving very popular for craft work.

The 'Bull Banksia' produces the largest and most sought after seed pods.

BLACKBUTT (WA)

(Eucalyptus Patens)

A pale yellow to brown timber available in limited quantities in WA and is used for flooring and furniture.

Its commonly used name is derived from the appearance of the tree following bushfire. It bears no resemblance to Blackbutts found in other parts of Australia.

BLACK PALM

(Normanbya normanbyi)

A tall, handsome palm of the North Queensland rainforest, growing to about 20 metres tall, with a 4 metre leaf spread. The trunk is smooth, slender, and closely ringed, and becomes almost black as the palm gets older. The timber is very hard and fibrous but turns cleanly with sharp tools.

BLACKWOOD

(Acacia melanoxylon)

The stunning timber radiates a subtle beauty that makes it irresistible to Australian furniture designers and other woodworkers. It boasts a variety of colours ranging from light Golden-brown to deep brown. It is easily worked, very stable and is long lasting.

BURLS

Burl refers to the timber produced from carbuncle like growths on the trunks of trees. The resulting timber is full of knots and swirls that make for an extremely attractive feature.

Burls can be harvested without damaging the tree and their collection is strictly regulated.

CAMPHOR LAUREL

(Cinnamomum camphora)

This tree is not a native to Australia, having been introduced from Asia around the 1850’s. The timber is extremely popular in craft work due to its beautiful colour, figure and aromatic nature. It is also popular with cabinetmakers for drawer bases etc. due to its insect repellent properties.

FLOODED GUM (WA)

(Eucalyptus rudis)

WA Flooded Gum is a medium-sized tree with a height of 10 to 20 metres and a diameter up to 1 metre. It occurs mainly on river flats and creek banks. Flooded Gum occurs typically in open forest or woodland, associated with Wandoo, Marri and Jarrah.

GRASSTREE

(Xanthorrhoea)

Also known as “Blackboy”, the plant that produced this timber is unique to Australia and is extremely slow growing.

The wood comes only from the root ball and a short section of the stem. It displays rich colours from Golden honey through to dark brown, almost black.

HUON PINE

(Lagarostrobos franklinii)

Huon pine is one of the slowest-growing and longest living plants in the world. It can grow to an age of 3,000 years or more. The tree is wholly protected and cannot be felled. However, wood on the forest floor remains usable and is highly prized, not least because of its sweet aroma.

JARRAH

(Eucalyptus marginata)

With its beautiful rich colours, interesting grain and occasional gum veins, Jarrah remains one of the world’s most desirable and sought after hardwoods.

The tree grows to a majestic 40 metres in height only in the south west corner of Western Australia.

KARRI

(Eucalyptus diversicolor)

Unique to Western Australia, the Karri is one of the tallest in the world growing up to 90 metres in height. The timber of the Karri ranges from a pale pink through to reddish brown.

It is frequently used as a structural timber because of its availability in long straight lengths.

LACE SHEOAK

(Allocasuarina fraseriana)

Colour dark red to brown with yellow sapwood and prominent medullary rays. Lace Sheoak displays very tight grain where the medullary rays twist, turn and interconnect, not dissimilar to a burl effect in other species.

Exclusive to WA in very limited quantities.

MALLEE ROOT

(various species)

The "Mallee Root" is obtained from dead trees, when often the only part left is the actual root ball, making its accurate identification very hard.

The wood varies from yellow to tan to dark red and brown. It is typically highly grained like burl and most are very hard, especially when dried.

MARRI

(Corymbia calophylla)

A light coloured hardwood unique to Western Australia. Usually contains gum veins, and is commonly known in WA as ‘Redgum’.

When converted to lumber, the gum dries black and provides a unique feature to this warm honey coloured timber.

MYRTLE

(Nothofagus cunninghamii)

Endemic to Tasmania, Myrtle is a striking wood with rich red, brown, and almost orange tones.

Taking a deep lustre when polished, myrtle is prized by architects, furniture makers and woodturners alike.

MULGA

(Acacia aneura)

Mulga can be a small tree up to 9 metres tall, with a well defined main stem, or a shrub of 2 to 5 metres height. The heartwood is dark brown, with contrasting markings of Golden yellow. There is a narrow band of yellowish sapwood. The wood is close-textured and very hard.

NATIVE PEPPERMINT

(Agonis flexuosa)

The timber is quite rare as the tree is not harvested from state forests and comes only from private land. The heartwood is light brown with some streaking and shows a subtle but attractive grain. The tree grows only in the south west corner of Western Australia.

QUANDONG

(Santalum acuminatum)

The Quandong is a member of the parasitic Sandalwood family. The fruit of this tree has long been an important food source of Aboriginal people. Its timber is similar to Sandalwood but without its distinctive aromatic nature. Emus are often responsible for spreading its seeds.

RED CEDAR

(Toona australis)

Red Cedar is a beautifully coloured timber from the east coast of Australia. It is available in only limited supply due to over harvesting in the early days of the country’s settlement. It is frequently featured in early Australian antique furniture.

RED MORREL

(Eucalyptus longicornis)

Red Morrel is a medium to tall tree up to 30 m. The rough grey bark up to the branches has a stringy texture, with smooth grey bark on the branches. The species is common in the south-east Goldfields and in the Wheatbelt to Coorow.

ROCK OAK

(Allocasuarina huegeliana)

Rock oak is a small to medium-sized tree that occurs associated with granite soils from east of Geraldton through the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions to Esperance. The heartwood is a deep red, and the timber has the distinctive rays that are best displayed by quatersawing. Sapwood is pale white.

SALMON GUM

(Eucalyptus salmonophloia)

Probably the best known eucalypt in the Goldfields and Wheatbelt of Western Australia. It had a long history of use in underground mines, and the dense fine grained and attractive timber has gained popularity for panelling and flooring. It is being experimented with in musical instrument manufacture, particularly as flute head joints.

SANDALWOOD

(Santalum spicatum)

Sandalwood is famous for its beautiful aromatic timber which, in the early days of settlement, earned up to 45 per cent of the colony’s export income. The majority went to Asia for use in incense sticks and is still used for that purpose, as well as being used by perfume manufacturers.

SASSAFRAS

(Atherosperma moschatum)

Sassafras, native to Tasmania, is a beautiful pale creamy grey to white timber finishing to grey and Golden tones. If the tree was infected with a staining fungus it produces ‘Blackheart Sassafras’ which is a distinctive dark brown or black and even green toned streaks running through the timber.

SHEOAK (WA)

(Allocasuarina fraseriana)

Colour dark red to brown with yellow sapwood and prominent medullary rays. Sheoak has been used for items such as beer barrels and roof shingles. Is now widely used for decorative woodwork, turnery and flooring. Exclusive to Western Australia in limited quantities.

SNAKEWOOD

(Acacia xiphophylla)

A large bush or small tree found in the southern Pilbara, Gascoyne and Murchison regions of WA. This very hard timber is very dark brown with some even darker grain and frequently displays beautiful golden flecks.

TUART

(Eucalyptus gomphocephala)

The Tuart is sufficiently rare that supplies of the timber are limited to coming from private property. The timber is pale-yellow brown in colour and very hard, which saw it widely used in the past for wagon wheels, propeller journals, telegraph pegs and tool handles.

WESTERN MYALL

(Acacia papyrocarpa)

Western Myall is endemic to the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia. It features a chocolate coloured to Golden brown heartwood, often with a Golden fleck and a pronounced ripple grain. The sapwood is pale yellowish colour and contrasts beautifully with the dark heartwood.

WANDOO

(Eucalyptus wandoo)

Wandoo is commonly called 'white gum', and is usually a medium to large tree up to 25 metres in height. Wandoo grows in the 380 to 500 mm rainfall zone of south-west Western Australia. The heartwood is yellow to light reddish brown, and the sapwood band is very narrow. The timber is very hard and dense.

WOODY PEAR

(Xylomelum occidentale)

Woody pear is generally a small tree growing to 5 to 8 m tall, with a short bole that can occasionally reach 30 cm in diameter. The large woody fruit is pear shaped, hence the common name. Heartwood is a dark reddish colour with a decorative figure. Sapwood is a contrasting pale cream colour.

YORK GUM

(Eucalyptus loxophleba)

York Gum is a small tree from 5 to 15 metres tall with a diameter of up to 0.6 m, or a low straggly mallee and is widespread in the Wheatbelt and Goldfields areas of WA. Heartwood is yellow-brown, hard and tough with an interlocked grain.

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