Toona ciliata (syn: Toona australis)
(Illustration by Maggie Taylor)
Mention red cedar and many people think of the beautiful, durable and very valuable cabinet timber. Known as Red Gold in the early days of European settlement, red cedar was one of the first of the forest giants to be felled for the riches its timber could bring. Before farmers settled the Blackall Range, the cedar getters searched the countryside and felled vast quantities of these trees.
One of the largest red cedars ever recorded – 20 feet, 5 inches (6.14m) in girth – was felled in the1860s less than two kilometres from the Reserve. Unfortunately the machinery of the day could not handle a tree of this size and most of the timber was wasted – explosives were used to break it up so it could be handled and sawn.
(Illustrations by Janet Hauser and Robyn Graham)
The red cedar tree is a giant, towering high above the surrounding forest canopy. Like many emergent rainforest trees its branches play host to numerous orchids, mosses and ferns such as staghorns and elkhorns. It is one of Australia’s few native deciduous trees, shedding its leaves for winter and putting on a spectacular flush of bright red new growth in spring. The bark is brown to grey, forming characteristic large irregular scales. The base of the trunk can be buttressed or round.
Red cedar is now treasured as an integral part of our rainforest, and not just for its famous timber. Perhaps in another 200 – 300 years we will again have one of the largest red cedars in the world gracing our hills.