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Tree Botanics

Kauri Previous

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Other Names: (Agathis australis)

This noble and world famous tree is the largest of the New Zealand natives, towering above the forest canopies reaching heights of up to 30m or more, with a trunk diameter ranging from 3m - 7m. Member of the Araucariaceae family, mature kauris contain large volumes of timber, and by world standards it is regarded as one of the very largest trees. A true giant occurring in lowland and hilly forests from North Cape to Kawhai in the Bay of Plenty, from Northland to latitude 38 degrees S. The tree is resinous, and when wounded exudes a sticky gum which hardens, clears and forms lumps that then fall to the ground as kauri gum. kauri-gum-botanics-arbortechnixThe young trees (rickers) exhibit tapering, narrowly conical crowns, but in mature trees the crown is flat-topped with massive structures spreading up to 30m in overall diameter. Some of the largest kauris have been estimated at being 2000 - 4000 years of age. The trunk of a mature kauri rises tall and straight with very little taper, reaching as far as 18m without producing a single lateral limb section. The bark appears as a shiny ash-grey colour, falling in large thick flakes to leave a 'hammer mark'-like appearance. The leaves are thick and leathery and on the adult tree exhibit as alternate, blunt, short & stiff some 2 - 4 cm long. they appear far longer in the juvenile kauri, approximately 5 - 10 cm long. The cones are more or less globose (spherical), although the male cone appears more cylindrical and the female ovoid. When ripe the scales fall away from the central axis to release winged seeds. The kauri is of course, monoecious - having unisexual reproductive organs or flowers, with the organs or flowers of both sexes borne on a single plant, as in corn and pines. Maori used to build their huge war canoes (capable of holding up to 100 warriors) from a single kauri trunk. During the last century it was highly prized for fashioning ship's spars and was extensively used in boat building, general house building, furniture and joinery. The gum was processed in varnishes and paints.