Learning More About Australia Through the Forest

A blog by Jim Howard, President

On a recent trip to Australia, I had the opportunity to visit the forests down under and learn firsthand about their native trees and local history.
I visited a rainforest in northern coastal Australia in the Queensland region near Cairns, which was historically a timber region.  We saw towering bull kauri pine (Agathis microstachya), the largest of Australia’s conifer pine species, which can grow up to 160 feet high.  Here we also saw some of Australia’s significant eucalyptus forests and caught a glimpse of one of their best known inhabitants, the koala.


The town of Herberton in northern Australia became an important gateway to the gold mining region at the Palmer River.  By 1910, as the area became populated and the need for forest products grew, over 20 species were being harvested, including silky oak, maple, silkwood, black pine and Kauri pine.  Also prevalent are giant fig trees that host myriad plants and animals.  The tree shown is estimated to be 500 years old.GiantFig

In southern Australia in the Barossa Valley near Adelaide, we visited the Yalumba Winery, Australia’s oldest family run winery.  They have their own cooperage and produce white oak barrels.WineBarrels

Nearby we visited the Herbig Family Tree, estimated to be 300-500 years old with a diameter of seven meters at the base.  This red gum tree was the home of Friedrich Herbig, who moved into its hollow base after emigrating from Germany in 1855.  Three years later, he married, and his wife moved into the tree as well.  They remained there until 1860, when they finally outgrew their treehouse after the birth of their second child.HerbigFamilyTree

It’s interesting that the study of an area’s forests provide a window into so many other aspects of a place. Experiencing the forests of Australia gave me lessons in trade, ecology, and history.