Talking Trees

A Blog by John Halkett

Category: Sustainability (page 1 of 2)

‘Powder of the Devil’ … the revolutionary cure for malaria

Cinchona Tree

Now the national tree of Peru and Ecuador, Cinchona changed the course of world history. There are more than 20 species of this impressive 25 metre tree with large, shiny, conspicuously veined leaves and deliciously fragrant, white to lilac-pink flowers that grow in small clusters, generally pollinated by butterflies and hummingbirds. But the tree’s real claim to fame is the effectiveness of its bark for treating malaria.

In the early seventeenth century, when Spanish colonists and Jesuit missionaries

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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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By the light of the sun

Cover Images of trees

This is a bit of advanced warning about my new book soon to be published. By the light of the Sun: Trees, wood, photosynthesis and climate change is about how, through the miracle of photosynthesis trees and wood, can confront climate change. The aim of this upcoming 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

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Uncrowned king of trees

3000 year old olive tree … foremost tree in early human culture and commerce.

Among the foremost trees in early human culture and commerce was the olive. From the dawn of recorded history the olive has enjoyed a status and prestige not shared by any other plant. Although many of the events in the early story of the olive are shrouded in mystery, the tree has been feted as the precursor to modern civilization.

It was the olive tree that was acknowledged as ‘the first of trees’. In the Bible’s book of Judges, Chapter 9, Verse 8 is written: “The trees went

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Chinese paulownia trees in Australia

Paulownia plantation, Richmond, NSW

Paulownia is a deciduous hardwood tree native to parts of Asia, notably China, and is well known for its vigorous growth and capacity to be grown over short rotations. Its timber is noted for its workability and outstanding strength to weight ratio. Paulownia timber is light in colour, with a gradual transition from sapwood to heartwood. The timber has a low density (260-350 kilograms per cubic metre, at 15 percent moisture content). It is a straight grained, soft timber which is easy

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‘Dinosaur’ pine growing in Sydney


The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney is one of my favorite spots in the city. Recently I paid another visit and checked out the Wollemi pine. This specimen was planted as one of the first seedlings from the trees found growing in the wild.

The Wollemi pine was formally identified in 1994. It is an example of the botanical diversity and wonder of Australian trees. Discovered when bushwalker David Noble clambered down a rocky cliff into a remote canyon in the Wollemi wilderness – hence the name

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Orangutans need trees

The orangutan ranks amongst our closest relatives and is perhaps the ultimate wildlife emblem of Southeast Asian forests.

The orangutan is perhaps the ultimate wildlife emblem of Southeast Asian jungles. Its compelling facial expressions and thoughtful, emotion filled eyes have instant appeal. The orangutan ranks amongst our closest relatives. Genetically they are about 97 per cent identical with us – they are intelligent, thoughtful and inventive. Now only in Borneo and Sumatra – the red apes, as they are sometimes called – possess a culture and a sense of beauty. Their name is composed of the Malay words

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Jungle book now available

Dr Lyndall Bull, director, Forestry Tasmania, and Cr Christine Sindt, Latrobe City, Victoria, congratulate John Halkett at the book launch at the Melbourne Outlook and Insights Conference.

Billed as the Book of the Month for September Jungle Jive: Sustaining the forests of Southeast Asia takes a constructive look at jungle conservation, arguing that implementing economic measures that value jungle trees is the way to sustain them and their biological values. The central thesis of the book is the need to inject a dose of economic realism into a subject that has been long on superlatives and emotion, but short on commercial reality. The book sets out an argument for that in

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