Australia's Red Gold
Australia’s native Red Cedar, Toona ciliata, towers above pretty much everything else in the lowland rainforests. It can reach 60 m in height with a massive girth of 3 m.
You would be lucky to spot one these days. A century or more of clearing and timber-getting has decimated the wild population and most now grow only in plantations or as single, ancient giants deep in the forest.
Being deciduous, Red Cedars shed a massive load of leaves each year which provides organic matter for the soil and habitat for invertebrates.
The rough bark provides an excellent grip for the many epiphytic plants which make their home among the high branches of the Red Cedar. Held aloft in the canopy, Bird’s nestferns, elkhorns and staghorns are able to reach light and rain not available to those on the forest floor.
The pioneers did not dub these magnificent trees “red gold” for nothing. The outstanding qualities of the Red Cedar timber – beautiful, fragrant and workable – made it highly prized in the same way as the horn of the rhinoceros, and similarly almost led to its demise.
Luckily, Red Cedar seedlings are now readily available from nurseries and you can see them in many suburban gardens.
It’s a popular tree due to its fast growth, disease resistance and ability to grow anywhere from sun to shade – as long as you have plenty of room!
Red Cedars make a valuable contribution to your local habitat: the spreading leaves in summer provide cooling shade and reduce water loss from smaller plants and from the soil, while the bare branches in winter allow in warmth and light.