Trees of the Southwest Corner of Down Under - West Wind Hardwood
Wood from Downunder

The region of Western Australia is a special corner of the world – now one of my favourite places for bush walking and just being out in the woolly wild. Well, it could be if I lived there  Much of the plant life in these forests is unique to the south-west of Western Australia. Trees such as the tingle only occur in this small area and as such provide a window to the past. Some of the plants have origins that can be traced back 65 million years to the super continent Gondwana when Australia was joined with what are now Africa, India, Antarctic and South America.

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Photo by Jan Nielsen – Pembroke, WA – January 2016

Thrombolites – as seen at Lake Clifton, WA – are ancient forms of microbial communities that photosynthesize. 
They are believed to resemble the earliest forms of life on Earth. December 2015 – Photos by Jan Nielsen

As all continents throughout the centuries have struggled with mismanaged logging practices, Australia has struggled too. Eucalyptus constitute the major hardwood timber resource of Australia. Massive clearing of timbered land for wood chip production have met with opposition from Australian environmentalists. The good news: between Augusta, Pemberton and Walpole, a continuous chain of national parks and nature reserves protect swathes of pristine wilderness.

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Red Tingle Tree with Buttress Base – Photo by Jan Nielsen – January 2016

Just thinking of the giant red tingles makes one feel tingly all over 😉  Yet you say it’s just another eucalyptus?!  Well my friend, the Red Tingle (Eucalyptus jacksonii) is one of the tallest trees in the state of Western Australia; measuring up to 24 metres round at the base and to a height of 75 metres and living up to 400 years.  Unfortunately they have a very shallow root system; growing a buttressed base and can be easily disturbed and damaged.  Due to a climate change over millions of years, their distribution is shrinking and now found primarily in the Walpole-Nornalup National Park.  You were introduced to Grandma Tingle in our last news letter.  We unfortunately were unable to visit THE Giant Tingle Tree in the Valley of Giants due to our mode of transport, the ‘people-mover’ van.  This tree has a circumference at breast height of about 22 m with a height of 30 m.

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The People-Mover – Chauffered by son-in-law Doug with Thanks!! – January 2016 – Photo by Jan Nielsen

But let’s talk taller and introduce Karri Trees. The karri tree is the third tallest tree in Australia and one of the tallest species flowering hardwood species in the world, reaching heights of ninety metres.  Typically the trunk has a patina of colours from white to grey to deep brown.  I think they’re beautiful; reminding me of the European plane trees seen in the boulevard along Las Ramblas in Barcelona.  Tree trunks tend to be long, singular and truly straight. The hardwood is marketed worldwide…………….well that’s debatable in North America…..and cultivated in South African plantations.  It plays an important role in local honey production, and we know that’s the truth.  So, so good!  So, so expensive!

The Karri Forests Region is defined by the majestic towering karri trees, but it also includes areas of jarrah forests and forests made up of a mixture of different trees including karri, marri, jarrah and tinglewood.  On our road trip with (daughter/husband) Anna/Doug and (Jan’s Danish cousins) Søren/Anne Grette, we literally drove around the corner and were “WOW’ed” by the Karri forest that popped out.  It was awe inspiring; akin to experiencing the stands of giant Douglas-fir trees at Cathedral Grove (located in MacMillan Provincial Park) on Vancouver Island.

Boranup Forest on Caves Road, between Hamlin Bay and Redgate Beach – January 2016 – Photos by Jan Nielsen

The Gloucester Tree is a giant karri tree in Gloucester National Park.  At 72 metres in height, it is the world’s second tallest fire-lookout tree.  Visitors can climb up to a platform in its upper branches for a spectacular view of the surrounding karri forest. Built in 1947, the Gloucester Tree was one of eight karri trees that between 1937 and 1952 were made relatively easy to climb so that they could be used as fire lookout spots.  The wooden lookout cabin was demolished in 1973 for safety reasons, and was replaced with a steel and aluminium cabin and visitors’ gallery.  Currently the climb is done by stepping on 153 spikes that spiral the tree.

Only 20 percent of visitors climb to the top of the tree; most make it only part of the way before turning back.  You decide whether Jan made it to the top!!

Gloucester Tree on Burma Road, Pemberton WA – January 2016 – Photos by Jan Nielsen

Here is an instance of a ‘name is a name, is a name’…..Sheoak, Karri Sheoak, Western Sheoak.

Karri she-oak (allocasuarina decussata) has needle-like leaves and is almost confined to the karri forest.  It has corky bark and can grow to a height of 15 m.  The wood was used by European settlers for axe handles, roof shingles and barrels. Today, the timber is prized for its broad rays, and is often used for wood-turning and carving of decorative ornaments. ** Visit our office and see the Sheoak Bowl we bought from the Woodturners’ Guild of Denmark, WA. **

The name Casuarina comes from the neo-Latin casuarius meaning cassowary, due to the resemblance of the drooping branchlets to the feathers of the Cassowary bird.  The common name of ‘sheoak’ was given to the genus in reference to the timber, which is oak-like in appearance.

Karri Sheoak at Walpole Wilderness Discovery Centre – January 2016 – Photos by Jan Nielsen

Like most national parks worldwide there is the oft visited gift shop.  Here is a selection of wood species and culinary products; all near and dear to the hearts at West Wind.

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Photo by Jan Nielsen –Walpole Discovery Centre – January 2016

As mentioned, in our previous newsletter, we made contact with timber suppliers, Neale and Carla.  I’ve run out of space in this issue, but stay tuned to future issues for some more in-depth details.  To wet the whistle, here are a couple of photos they provided us.

Courtesy of Djarlimari Timber

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Banksias Pod – Photo by Jan Nielsen

Could you envision using banskia wood for the keel of a small boat like Wikipedia suggests?  Well, what about for wood turning?  We have a lovely turned banksias pod that we were gifted from the Woodworkers Guild of Denmark, WA.  Stop by the office for a look.

More importantly, we’d welcome your feedback on the possibility of importing Australian timber and burls.  What say the public?!  Email your thoughts to me at shelley@westwindhardwood.com.

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