Tasmanian Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii) is, arguably, Tasmania’s best known timber. It now only grows in the south west of Tasmania in the large temperate rain-forests; in the early years of settlement there were stands in the foothills of Mt Wellington (close to Hobart) but they were soon cut down once people realised how special the timber is.
Initially those early settlers would have used it due to its easy ‘workability’, as it looks and acts much like a pine (although it’s not really a pine but a podocarp). At some point the penny must have dropped as the timber just doesn’t rot (or it rots extremely slowly). It is permeated with a resin (methyl eugenol) that is a natural deterrent to insects, bacteria, etc.
Huon pine is still regarded as the best boat building timber in the world thanks, largely, to its unique capacity to withstand rot for hundreds and even thousands of years (it even resists the marine borer which infests all other wooden boats). It also has the ability to float, even as a green log, which has enabled salvage processes unheard of in other timber industries. It is light and extraordinarily stable with exceptional strength for its weight – plus it and can be bent and moulded to ridiculous angles.
The timber itself is beautiful to use; it smells wonderful, planes and sands easily and is quite strong for its weight. When freshly milled it is a pale yellow but ages into a deep yellow/orange. It has very fine grain as it is very slow growing and trees can live for several thousand years and is one of the Earth’s longest living organisms (bit of useless trivia there).
It is not really commercially extinct like the King Billy Pine as timber has been salvaged from flooded lakes, etc but it is illegal (and stupid) to cut any living trees. Thankfully new growth trees don’t suffer from fires nearly as much as the King Billy as their habitat is a lot wetter; if we can resist the temptation to cut them down in a few thousand years we should have a good supply of timber again.
If you are lucky enough to own something made from Huon Pine – treasure it.
Tas Special Timbers: https://www.tasmanianspecialtimbers.com.au/huon-pine/