Who has the most diverse timbers in the world? 

My Grandfather Patrick O’Keefe built sailing boats as a bit of a hobby at Prince of Wales Bay and I had the pleasure, as a kid, mucking around the dockyards,  playing with scrap timber, and getting up to all sorts of mischief; I recall at the end of a particularly long day him saying the ‘Chimbu’ is almost ready to sail (it was named after a Highland New Guinea tribe which is a long story).

He said to me that the Chimbu has seven unique Tasmanian timbers used in its construction. I didn’t look that impressed, so he emphasis that as a region, Tasmania undoubtedly had the most diverse and unique timber (trees) on the planet – softwoods, hardwoods, deciduous, and even edible! They boasted different colours, grains, beauty and durability, as well as uses that were unmatched. He then went on to tell me that his father had used leatherwood to temporarily replace the leaf springs of the horse and cart at the Shannon…. by that stage I’d fallen asleep.

Unlike my grandfather I’ve been afforded the privilege of travelling across the world in my capacity working on sustainable tree crops (cocoa and coffee) and packaging for Mondelez (Kraft/Cadbury).  I was able to visit many like for like diverse tree locations including, but not limited to:

Elevated plateaus in the Amazon Basin 
Sumatra and Borneo 
Ghana – West Africa 
Papua New Guinea and 
Pacific northwest  

Without a doubt there are 3-4 areas that came close to Tasmania’s diversity, each characterised by a compact diverse range of ecosystems, soils, topography and climates.

So parochially (35 years later) I walked away with my assessment of my Grandfather’s statement: If you take an equation of diversity, uniqueness, and sustainability you can only make one conclusion:

No other location of the same geographic size has so many significantly differing species and when it comes to sustainability harvest and protection for future generations most others have failed. 

To celebrate our diversity, the Tasmania Forestry Hub will be hosting a competition at Agfest highlighting Tasmanian timber. Britton Timbers have kindly donated 12 species of timber which visitors will be encouraged to try and identify. Correct answers will be placed into a draw to win a unique Tasmanian timber prize.

Visit the TFFPN’s Tasmanian Forest Industries Site on Sixth Avenue (site 610-14) at Agfest Feild Days from 4-6 May.