Kauri trunkKauri cone
Kauri cone close up

New Zealand Kauri

Distribution: Prefers the northern half of the North Island.

About: Lives up to 2000 years. As the tree grows it develops a huge, limb free, straight trunk. The weight of wood in the trunk of a mature kauri is the highest of any tree. This and other factors such as a resistance to rot when wet made it an excellent timber for general use and boat building. At the time of European settlement in was considered that there was a never ending supply. The trunk sheds its bark in plate size scales so that it stays free of epiphytes (parasitic plants). This however is not the case with the crown of the tree which hosts up to 30 or so plant species. The largest Kauri such as Tane Mahuta (the Father of Forest) and Te Matua Ngahere have girths of 15 meters and more. That's massive! Maybe they were too big for the saw.

The other unusual feature of the Kauri is the gum produced in large quantities. This was much sought after for high grade varnishes, linoleum and French polish, and this led to an industry in gum digging for the buried pieces, and later in the bleeding of kauri trees.