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Tree Stuff Blog
But Pines, by Ben Gaia
"Anything but pines" is the buzzword when talk turns to the "Billion
Trees" plan. A younger generation of foresters, who have seen
their elders milling 30 year old cedar and macrocarpa, are willing to
bank on the market for good quality softwoods in the years ahead. But
please - not pines. So what do we grow then?
The real problem is that pines (and eucalypts) blow down in those pesky
cyclones we keep getting. Last year left rows of pine forests on
hillsides lying flat across more than half of the pine forests in many South Island
mountainous areas. The owners and investors in these large scale
forests are really fed up having to replant after fifteen or so years
of wasted time. The will to plant pines is ebbing, and we are all
looking around for an easy quick growing softwood tree to fill the
top end of processed wood demand. We can grow, mill, and make fine
finished products out of these trees, and these are the ones to plant
for timber production in thirty years' time.
Number one: Cryptomeria japonica, or Sugi. Far and away the winner, ticks all the
boxes, grows fast west of the Divides, resists pests, the timber is
highly valued Japanese Cedar (or Japanese redwood): we can grow it
and we should. Dense root systems mean stands of Sugi are less likely
to blow over than pines are.
16 year old Cryptomeria japonica tree
Second place has to go to Leyland Cypress. Haggerston Grey and Leighton Green are fantastic,
also sterile so good for high country areas to prevent wildling spread. Although expensive to produce by
cuttings, it outgrows Macrocarpa and Lusitanica but is similar to
Lawson, another brilliant cypress wood, with light colour and a
strong scent which resists insect attack.
Third I suggest all the other fast and healthy cypresses: selected
Macrocarpas eg Longwood; Mexican cypress, Arizonas for east of the
mountains; Lawson cypress, and "Ovensii cypress",
which looks like a Lawson but is more likely to grow nice and
straight, and fast with unfluted round trunks.
12 year old pruned Lawson cypress
Fourth: Everyone is talking about Redwood and for a reason: the Americans
see a dollar in growing it here in NZ. This is because it grows in fifty years
instead of eighty! So go figure, as they say. The Redwood is
fernickity as to where she grows though, be warned. A sheltered, deep
soil, place a few k's inland from the sea with mists and rain all
year round is what they adore. And not cattle and gorse, they do not
adore those. They will need tending and fencing for ten years. Then
they really start to get going! Exciting to watch from year ten on if
you are like me and watch them growing. Also Redwood has dense root systems
for wind resistance. Forest owners are sick of pines blowing down. Why waste fifteen years for nothing when that time could be used growing Redwood timber.
Fifth we should remember Totara. Our native timber answer to the question "If not pines,
what?" The timber is very like Redwood and Cedar, straight
grained, easy to carve, weatherproof, and a pink colour fading to
silver. More to the point, the young totara trees are spiky, and
cattle will leave them to grow. It will grow as fast as Redwood, one
fifty-year rotation and bingo, we could have hills covered with
totara instead of that oh so dreadful Pinus
radiata. Easy to propagate too for the busy tree nurseryman. Good
brownie points for everyone. Totara.Our Tree! Plant it! Cue a series of ads with
Crumpy. Hiluxes. Toia Mai! Te Waka!
Number six on our list should be Oak. Not widely known or planted in NZ, outside of Hagley Park, it
grows really well, and like Redwood it gets exciting to observe after a sluggish first
ten years. It forms huge shade trees with acorns for pigs and golden autumn
foliage from Elf Land. Being deciduous is great for farm foresters
as the light gets in to the pasture. Plus the fallen leaves of oaks
bring up deep nutrients from the subsoil and scatter them on the
surface. Oaks are fussy about their site and like the lowlands
rather than the mountain slopes. The timber is very waterproof. It
built many great World Empires and their navy ships, including
Britain. There it is grown in a ninety year production cycle, loving
chalk and lime country and will stand for five hundred years through
most (but not all) hurricanes. We are good at building boats too, so
let's set up NZ's future shipbuilding industry.
These would be my top choices for all foresters who are sick and tired of
pines (and Eucalypts) blowing down. All these trees have proven
growth success in the New Zealand landscape; all have proven local
and overseas markets waiting to be filled. We are familiar with them
all and they are already growing happily around us.
So let's crank it up and grow lots more of these, maybe one billion to
start with, then maybe another billion after that!
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