September 15, 2016

The Oldest Living Trees.

A short history of Australia's most remarkable timber, Huon Pine.

If you head west from Hobart in Tasmania in the car, you can be in some of the oldest forests on earth in just over 90 minutes. The Huon Pine Forests in the state's southwest are blanketed by narrow trees that shoot up from the mountainside and fight for the sun high into the air, they're the tallest hardwood trees on earth. If you're passing by a particularly large tree, it's likely to be more than 3,000 years old, which means it came to be long before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Ancient Egyptians and the Roman Empire.

Huon Pine grows in a particularly wet climate, and as such, has developed some incredible qualities. It's the most durable timber you'll find anywhere in Australia. According to some sources, logs that have been lying on the forest floor for several hundred years are still harvested and milled, because they contain a high density of methyl eugenol, the same essential oil that gives timber its terrific creamy yellow colour.

Today, Huon Pine is a protected species, and sadly, it's in a decline. It means that the price of Huon Pine today is between 6 and 10 times the cost of popular Australian hardwoods, because 85% of the 1.2 million hectares of old growth forest is protected permanently. If you're lucky enough to reclaim some Huon Pine, it comes alive with high polish. It's an incredibly narrow tree (it grows a maximum of 2mm every year) so in the space of 30 centimetres across the intricate, beautiful grain, you can stare back into the history of the weather and the seasons.