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Swamp kauri (Agathis australis)

Common Name(s): Swamp kauri, ancient kauri

Botanical Designation: Not a distinct species of kauri; trade name for kauri trees (Agathis australis) that have been harvested from salt marshes and swamps in New Zealand’s North Island

Distribution: New Zealand

Average Dried Weight: 34.0 lbs/ft3 (540 kg/m3)

Janka Hardness: 730 lbf (3,230 N)

Comments: These kauri trees are thousands of years old—with logs being further preserved underground for many more thousands of years. The massive trees were buried with a seemingly violent and sudden force, possibly in a large storm, tsunami, or flood. (Curiously, New Zealand is located right at the boundary of two major tectonic plates.) The bizarre circumstances leading to the swamp kauri’s burial bears a striking similarity to many flood accounts of early civilizations, where “all the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11).

Images: Drag the slider up/down to toggle between raw and finished wood. A special thanks to Ben Vaterlaus for providing the picture of the turned pen.

New Zealand kauri (turned pen)

Identification: See the article on Softwood Anatomy for definitions of endgrain features.

New Zealand kauri (endgrain 10x)
New Zealand kauri (endgrain 1x)

Resin canals: absent

Tracheid diameter: medium

Earlywood to latewood transition: gradual

Grain contrast: low

Parenchyma: none; contains resinous tracheids (resin plugs) with dark reddish-brown contents which look nearly identical to diffuse parenchyma

Lookalikes/Substitutes: Not to be confused with karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor), a completely unrelated Australian hardwood with a very similar common name.

Notes: Reported to have a distinct taste (but no odor). 

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