Our Wonderful Native Cabinet Timbers
We have a range of the world's best cabinet timbers. Our rainforests were
once rich in these wonderful timbers, many of which were world renowned.
But unfortunately few have been developed to take their rightful place in
plantations for the future of our plantation industry, as so many early
attempts to grow these timbers have failed. This has been found to be entirely
due to the lack of understanding of the needs of our tropical and sub-tropical
rainforest species. Most early attempts to grow these species in plantations
was in single species plantings, which invariably failed for several reasons.
The Mitchell System due to intensive field research since 1980 has produced
amazing results by introducing designed mixed species plantings. We have
been able to progressively improve our planting and weed control equipment
and management technology to enable private plantation establishment.
The designed mix of species is based on the forest species to suit a particular
location and compatibility of species. The design also enables selective
harvesting based on the differing maturity age of species within the planting.
My greatest discovery was of silver quandong in 1955 while engaged in contract
building. One job I had was the replacement of the roof and extensions
to a house in Samford. The house had been an original pioneer cottage built
in about the 1860s at Mount O'Reilly and then relocated to Samford in the
early 1930s. The original roof would have been shingles but when shifted
into Samford was replaced with second hand iron. When I took off the roof
I was amazed that all of the interior framing was in perfect condition
including the roof framing.
The hoop pine roof battens were replaced with hardwood but the quandong
roof framing was in perfect condition. I realised that this wonderful timber
was something special as I knew that quandong was fast growing and fast
maturing so I knew that if this species could be grown in timber plantations
we could have a wonderful timber for our timber industry in the future.
At the time I was banana growing and trialling native timbers species in
old banana patches so I tried many nurseries to get plants of quandong
but always I was unsuccessful. They all said that the seed wouldn't strike
so would not be bothered with them. At this time the species was considered
rare in the wild as most had been taken out. No one had bothered replanting
any. I however knew from experience with the wonderful timber that there
had to be a way to grow quandong which was superior to pine and 3 times
faster maturing than pine.
I approached the Forestry to investigate the possibility of trialling this
native timber species but had no response. It wasn't until my retirement
from banana growing in 1982 that I had time to investigate the possibility
of growing this tree. I couldn't get seedlings so I decided to research
their propagation. At this time I also researched the propagation of white
beech and other valuable timber species. My son Ron was studying agricultural
science at Queensland University and was assisting me with the propagation
research on which he based his thesis for his Agricultural Science degree.
From our field trials we have selected ten species that could be used in
private plantations. Our aim is to make the plantings of these wonderful
timbers viable for private growers. From the ten species we use a designed
mix of 5 or 6 species to suit the location, soil, rainfall and likelihood
of frost. The mix is based on inter-species compatibility.
Quandong requires rainfall of 1000 mm or more and a frost free environment.
When these conditions are met, the growth rates are spectacular providing
that weed control management and pruning technology is used. When seasonal
conditions are relatively normal the first thinning and milling is at 8
to 10 years. Extensive tests on the timber at this stage have indicated
that the timber quality is equal to old growth timber and far superior
to pine or other timbers. This timber will be a major boost to the timber
industry when grown according to the Mitchell Method.
All rainforest species require total weed control for the first two to three
years. Form pruning for quandong is very important. Quandong is an upright
growing species with distinctive layers of branches. Of these layers of
branches three fully formed layers must be retained on the trees at all
times to enable enough leaf mass to allow strong health growth of the tree.
Quandong can never be grown in a single species planting as the nature
of the tree requires a spreading crown when it reaches its maximum height.
When they are grown in close proximity to each other the crowns lock in
at 8 to 10 years and growth rate ceases. This is at the time that thinning
must occur. These trees must be thinned to allow the wide spreading branches
to form the crown. In our mixed species planting design we cater for this
by thinning and milling of quandong at 8 to 10 years.
Quandong has other very important advantages to the environment. It is a
very regular and heavy producer of fruit which is sought after by all wildlife.
Its flowers are very high in nectar which provides food for nectar feeding
birds including lorikeets. This tree will be a tremendous advantage to
our wildlife while also providing a huge valuable timber resource.
Silver ash (Flindersia schottiana) will be another major timber for the
future. Although taking longer to mature it is nevertheless a timber much
sought after by the industry. This is also an upright growing species which
requires special pruning methods. The branches form in clusters, the first
when the tree reaches about 1 1/2 to two metres in height. These branches
must be retained on the tree until another cluster is formed higher up
the tree. Once a leaf mass is formed the lower branches can be removed.
This species will grow well in lower rainforest areas and will withstand
some light frost.
Silky oak (Grevillia robusta) is an excellent timber and will grow well
in most locations and can tolerate low to medium frosts in lower rainfall
areas. This is a wonderful durable timber and was used extensively in window
frames before the introduction of metal frames and has also been used extensively
as a furniture timber.
Prune with care only removing lower branches as they become shaded out.
As with all of our rainforest species 4/5 of the leaf mass must be retained
at all times.
Queensland maple (Flindersia brayleyana) is also a very valuable timber.
This species is a little more subject to frost and needs similar rainfall
conditions to quandong. When grown in a mixed species plantation this is
a fast grower and needs very little pruning.
White beech (Gmelia leichardtii) has been developed by us as a fast growing
and high value timber. This timber is much sought after in the boat building
industry. It will withstand light frosts and can be grown in a lower rainfall
area. Pruning is carried out by only taking off the lower branches as they
are shaded out. It grows well in mixed species plantings.
Yellow ash (Flindersia zanthoxyla) is closely related to the crows ash and
has a very durable and dense timber, yellow in colour. It is much sought
after for outdoor furniture etc. We only use this species in lower rainfall
areas as it is slow growing and would be shaded out by the faster growing
species. They will withstand light frosts. Prune with care and only take
the lower branches off when shaded out.
Crows ash (Flindersia australis) is also a very valuable and durable timber
which is slow growing and will withstand light frosts growing well in lower
rainfall areas. Prune with care and only take the lower branches off when
White cedar (Melia acedarach) is also an excellent furniture timber. This
species is fast growing but requires a lot of pruning as they sprout side
shoots from above every leaf which must be broken off regularly with care
taken not to damage the large leaves. When the trunk reaches three to four
metres allow the tree to crown. We only grow these species as a valuable
early maturing timber and a height promoter for the other plantation species.
Red cedar (Toona ciliata) is a very well known and valuable timber but is
highly subject to tip moth and can only be grown when the tip is sprayed
with residual insecticide at about ten day intervals. When the tip moth
is controlled red cedar can be one of the faster growing of all our species
except for the silver quandong. The caterpillars of this moth do not eat
the leaves but burrow into the stem eating the pith in the centre. These
trees cannot be grown without tip moth control for twelve months when a
three metre trunk should be attained. As with the white cedar they send
out side shoots above every leaf. These side shoots must be regularly broken
off until a three metre trunk is reached when the tree should be allowed
to crown with no more insect control needed. This species grows well in
a range of areas including low rainfall and light frost.
Our plantation design is based on providing the private and investment grower
with the most economical method of establishing successful plantations.
These sub-tropical and tropical rainforest species need specialized methods
to establish successful plantations. We have been able to progressively
refine methods of management of plantations with the object of providing
the required management necessary as economically viable as possible. We
run instruction courses and have follow-up on site advice when necessary
following planting so that our growers can get the assistance and advice
of our approved contractors for ongoing plantations needs such as advanced
pruning and necessary culling at out approved costings. Our plantations
have built-in design features to make all of these management practices
economically viable. We therefore strongly advise our growers to contact
us so that contractors of Mitchell Forest Farming can be sent to advise
you. People without full knowledge of our system could cause unnecessary
costs. Please contact Mitchells Forest Farming so that we can arrange one
of our contractors to visit you if necessary.