Talking Trees

A Blog by John Halkett

From primitive rafts to speedy bombers

Bulsa Plantation

The world’s lightest hardwood continues to be widely grown. Balsa (Ochroma pyramidale) is a large, fast-growing tree native from southern Mexico to southern Brazil, but can now be found in many other countries, including Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Solomon Islands.

Balsa trees can establish themselves in forest clearings or on abandoned agricultural fields and grow extremely rapidly. Their speed of growth accounts for the lightness of the wood, which has a lower density

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More than just wine bottle stoppers

Harvesting Cork Trees

Cork oak, Quercus suber a medium-sized, evergreen tree is the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers and other uses. It is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. It grows to up to 20 metres, although it is typically more stunted in its native environment.

Cork oaks commonly live more than 200 years. Cork harvesting is done entirely without machinery. The European cork industry produces 340,000 tonnes of cork a year, with a value of €1.5 billion and employs 30,000 people.

The

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Rubber … from the Spanish Court to pneumatic tyres

Tapping a rubber tree

Rubber trees (Hevea bransiliensis) are tall deciduous trees growing to a height of up to 45 metres in the wild, but cultivated trees are usually much smaller because drawing off latex restricts growth. The inner bark oozes latex when damaged.

Native to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia, rubber trees where originally called caoutchouc, from the indigenous cauchy, or ‘weeping wood’. The rubber tree is a member of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family. Its

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More trees – you will feel better

Couple walking dog in forest

As if being renewable, storing carbon and contributing to climate change mitigation isn’t enough – trees make you feel better – true! It’s not stretching the point to say your health and well-being are likely to be improved if you walk amongst the trees.

Increasing urbanisation means that people have less access to nature in their daily lives. Australians on average now spend about 90 per cent of their time indoors. This coincides with reports of increasing obesity and nearly half of Australians

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New Zealand’s oldest exotic tree still going strong

Williams good Christian venerable old pear tree.

Just before launching into this month’s column I want to express my appreciation to the Forestry Corporation of NSW for agreeing to continue to support and sponsor this column in 2019. So thanks to chief executive Nick Roberts and staff.

Right, well thinking of exotic trees in a New Zealand forestry context radiata pine immediately springs to mind. However, the country’s oldest exotic tree, a Williams good Christian pear tree near Kerikeri in Northland, is still going strong as it enters its

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They speak a language that the strangers do not know

Umbrella thorn acacia trees pump toxic substances into their leaves to rid themselves of browsing giraffes.

This blog begs the question do trees talk? Or perhaps more specifically do they communicate with each other? According to the dictionary definition, language is what people use when we talk to each other. Looked at this way, humans are the only beings who can use language, because the concept is limited to our species. But do trees communicate with each other? If so how, they definitely do not produce sounds, so there’s nothing to hear. It turns out trees have a completely different way of

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False beeches still evoke tales of Gondwanaland and exploration

New Zealand beech forest.

Southern beeches, or Nothofagus, are a genus of 43 species of trees and shrubs native to the Southern Hemisphere and found in southern South America, southeast Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and New Caledonia. They are sometimes dominant in temperate forests in these regions, and were once a feature of coastal regions of Antarctica. Although separated by 10,000 kilometres of Pacific Ocean from eastern Australia and New Zealand, southern beech occurs along the west coast and

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Araucaria trees feature of Paris of the South

Distinctive umbrella form, mature Araucaria araucana trees a feature of the streets of Buenos Aires.

Driving around the streets of Buenos Aires the capital of Argentina, as you do, it is easy to see why it is call the Paris of the South. Wide boulevards, extensive parklike gardens, and heaps of statues. Striking and so South American are the frequent mature Araucaria trees. A distinguishing feature of many South American landscapes is the Araucaria araucana trees, commonly called monkey puzzles, or Chilean pines. An evergreen tree native to central and southern Chile and

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New Book Now Available

Book Cover

My sixth book: By the light of the Sun: Trees, wood, photosynthesis and climate change has now been published. The mission of this book is to detail how to better harness the power of the products of photosynthesis to offset adverse climate change. Specifically this book asserts that trees and forests, plus wood products, will be even more important in assisting to tackle climate change, and in contributing to a sustainable energy and carbon neutral future. This book details how

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Antarctica forests

John in Antarctica that may in fact have once hosted forests.

Just back from southern South America and Antarctica having a firsthand look at climate change impacts. With a surface area in excess of 14 million square kilometres Antarctica is larger than Europe, and almost twice the size of Australia. As much as 98 per cent of the continent’s surface is covered in thick, compacted ice, reaching an average depth of over a two kilometres. Recent scientific discoveries suggest that this ‘forgotten continent’ – sometimes nicknamed the Great

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